HONG KONG – When they started dating, Hong Kong actors Chow Yun Fat and Idy Chan were the talk of the town.

But, five years later, in 1983, they broke up, shattering many fans’ hopes of a dream wedding.

Now, Chan, who caught Chow’s eye when they met on the set of 1978 TVB drama Vanity Fair, has told Taiwan media why they went their separate ways.

Apparently, his mother was not impressed with her outspoken ways, and Chow, now 64, is known for respecting his mum’s wishes.

The actress, who left the industry in the early 1990s, is most famous for her role in TV drama Return Of The Condor Heroes (1983-1984), alongside Andy Lau.

Lau, now 57, said he was smitten with her, admitting that he told her but she just laughed it off. He confessed that he was depressed after shooting for Condor Heroes wrapped up since he could not meet her anymore on the set.

When Chow’s relationship with Chan floundered, he shocked the Hong Kong entertainment industry when he was hospitalised, with talk that he tried to commit suicide.

Asked by the Taiwanese media, Chan now would say only that it was best that they asked Chow to comment on that dark episode.

But she reportedly nursed him back to health when he was warded.

While their romance fizzled out long ago, she could not forget how he always had her interests at heart, encouraging her, at one point, to go to Canada to study because he felt show business did not suit her.

While Chan and his mum apparently did not hit it off, Chan approved of his filial ways. “The thing I like most about Chow is that he is such a filial son. He once told me that he can only give me 15 per cent of his love, as the other 85 per cent of his love belongs to his mother.”

After they drifted apart, Chow was linked to actresses Carol Cheng, now 61, and Cherie Chung, now 59, before he married actress Candice Yu, now 59, in 1983.

That union lasted just six months and he later tied the knot with Singaporean heiress Jasmine Tan, now 59, in 1987.

Chan herself married a businessman in 1984 but they divorced eight years later.

She told the Taiwanese media that she has never met Tan but “I feel that she is someone who can really help him and is integral to his career. If I were still with him, his career would not be at the level that it is today, and I would not have been able to help him become an international star”.

Tan, who is also Chow’s manager, has helped to open doors for him in Hollywood, with roles in movies such as Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End.

Chan, who is said to have adopted a girl, now largely stays out of the limelight, focusing on her charity work and businesses instead.

Chow, who has vowed to donate his wealth to charity, told Apple Daily: “If you can make someone happy, it is considered a blessing to yourself too.”

The actor, who has said he does not watch the TV shows he once starred in, does not dwell on his past romance with Chan too.

“Idy and I were ex-lovers. If we were to see each other again, what do we have to say to each other? My life now is very simple. Although it is simple, I am still very happy.”

One suspects that Chan would say the same too.