After months of negotiations, the U.S. government has reached an agreement with Vietnamese officials to allow actor Don Duong to leave his native country and live permanently in the United States. Duong is scheduled to arrive Wednesday in California with his wife and two sons.
The 45-year-old Vietnamese actor who lived in Ho Chi Minh City was branded a "traitor" by government officials for acting in two American films, "We Were Soldiers" with Mel Gibson and "Green Dragon" with Patrick Swayze and Forest Whitaker.
Vietnamese officials denounced Duong, contending the films "distort the legitimate war history ... and the humanity of the Vietnamese." In August, Vietnam's Ministry of Culture banned both films and seized Duong's passport. The Vietnamese government threatened to prohibit the actor from leaving the country or practicing his profession for five years.
Duong has been acting for 20 years and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Until last year, he was a star in Vietnam, having won the Vietnamese best actor award and appearing in two films that were chosen as best picture in Vietnamese film festivals. In 1999 Vietnam submitted "Three Seasons," in which the actor starred, as its official entry to the Academy Awards for best foreign language film.
Duong's plight prompted Gibson, Swayze, Whitaker, "We Were Soldiers" director Randy Wallace, Harvey Keitel and others in the Hollywood film community to rally behind him in a letter-writing campaign.
While Hollywood stars offered support, the Vietnamese government began interrogating Duong. The actor was asked repeatedly to sign a statement admitting his guilt as a traitor. Duong refused, maintaining that he loved his country and had done nothing wrong.
"I'm proud that he did not sign," said his sister, Susie Bui. "He did the right thing. I'm happy he's coming here, even though I know this is not what he wanted. He wanted to stay in Vietnam. He loves the country."
Duong and his family will live, at least temporarily, with his sister in San Jose.