Prestige Online released an interview they did with DONNIE YEN on the first day of 2018. Its quite an interesting interview where Yen talks about his career as a martial artist and his start in acting as a martial arts actor, then talks about being IP Man and how he didn’t want to be a Chinese martial artist cliche in Star Wars – Rogue One. Despite working with the producer to create a less “cliched” character Îmwe, Yen admits it still wasn’t a step forward and it was still stereotypical. In other Donnie Yen news, he talks about how he felt filming “Chasing the Dragon” a film directed by Wong Jing and set in 1960s and 1970s Hong Kong, in which he portrays Crippled Ho, based on the notorious Hong Kong gangster Ng Sek-ho.
“I was not intrigued, not inspired. I wasn’t convinced by the roles they offered me, no matter how sweet the talk was,” he says. “We were at a big event held by Dalian Wanda a year before I agreed to do Crouching Tiger. Everybody under the sun came. I remember hanging out with Leonardo DiCaprio eating pizza, just chilling. It felt great because, I mean, these are people who wouldn’t normally sit at a table in China, hanging out with Chinese actors, eating pizza. I remember thinking – this is how it should’ve been for a long time. The producer was there saying, ‘Donnie just do this movie blah, blah, blah.’”
“But I had no interest in Crouching Tiger. I’d done it all. I’ve done martial-arts movies all my life. There’s no challenge in playing that role. The reason I was finally convinced was because my mentor, Yuen Woo-ping – the man who brought me into the industry – was going to direct it, so I said yes because it was a matter of respect and face, but that’s it. I said it to the producer’s face, too. I wasn’t that interested.”
But then came Star Wars and Yen signed up. The prevailing reason is because of his children’s enthusiasm for the franchise, but there’s more than that, Yen saw an opportunity. “When I took on the role in Rogue One, I felt it was important for me to take a step forward, to develop it so that it would be less clichéd,” he says. “I know they wanted Donnie Yen because he’s Ip Man. They wanted Ip Man in Rogue One. I get it. But I don’t want to portray another stereotypical Chinese martial-arts man. I worked with the producer and director to develop his blindness, to change the lines, the way he looks and the way he speaks so that the character had an added layer.
“Even after all of that, Îmwe still came out a cliché. But if you think he’s a cliché on screen, you should’ve seen the original script they offered me. It was why I was initially hesitant to take on the role. But I understand why. They can’t have an overhaul overnight. There’s a large audience that has never watched Asians in films before, so it takes time for them to process an Asian actor. To realise that he’s no different from a Caucasian actor or a black actor.”
While studios are still taking their sweet time introducing Asian faces to Western cinema, the very same ones are casting Chinese mega stars for films that want to make bank in the booming market of the Middle Kingdom. Big names – the likes of Fan Bingbing and Angelababy – have been slotted into feature-length blockbusters and given one line to mumble, to cater to the Chinese market. Unsurprisingly, this tactic has failed.
When I mention this to Yen and suggest that Hollywood might be wise to adjust, he’s quick to jump in. “They’d better adjust,” he says. “They need to learn from their mistakes. Look at all these actors and actresses that now say no. It proves it doesn’t work. You can’t just put an Asian actor in there and expect that, because they show up for a second, you’ve covered the Asian market. That is a joke.
“I’m glad Asian actors are stepping up and saying no. If you’re gonna spend months away from home and devote time in your life to work on a film it had better be worth it.”
My 2 cents worth? Well I love Donnie Yen, have since I was young and watched all his martial arts films, despite the fact he started off not always playing the main lead. He is still awesome and yes great eye candy for me and for many others I am sure. Personally, I always look forward to watching anything with Yen in it, and I like how he is so honest and candid, like he was talking about his character in Star Wars – Rogue One.
I will leave it here, but feel free to let us know what y’all think…
Images via Prestige Online
To read the full article, please click on: DONNIE YEN TALKS RACE IN HOLLYWOOD