Why Donnie Yen Didn't Want To Accept A Role In 'Rogue One' At First
Of the many reasons to catch 'Rogue One', one of it has got to be seeing Donnie Yen kick some space butt in a 'Star Wars' movie!
One of Hong Kong's biggest movie stars right now, you've probably seen the 53-year-old actor in one of the three 'Ip Man' films, the latest instalment of which starred Mike Tyson. He is slated to appear in yet another Hollywood blockbuster next year - 'xXx: The Return of Xander Cage' - alongside Vin Diesel.
Aside from being the first Chinese actor to play a leading role in the iconic saga, here are some things worth knowing about how Donnie Yen brought Chirrut Îmwe to life:
1. He almost turned down the part, as he did not want to be apart from his family for five whole months. He eventually accepted the role so that his kids would think he's a "cool dad". :p
Yen could not make up his mind in the beginning, as he was wary about having to leave his family for several months to film the movie in London. The Hong Kong-based actor only accepted the part several months after he was approached for it... because his kids wanted him to.
"I asked them 'How do you feel about daddy doing 'Star Wars'?' and they flipped out," he said.
"I asked my kids, 'Do you like Papa [more] in 'Ip Man'...or 'Star Wars'?' Without a doubt or a pause, they shouted, "Star Wars!" I was like, 'OK, wait a minute! I need to be a cooler dad.'"
2. He was also reluctant to accept the role because he didn't want to play a "meaningless" token Asian character that existed only to attract the large Chinese market
'Rogue One' director Gareth Edwards did his best to assure Yen of Chirrut Îmwe's pivotal role in the film.
Once he told me what my character was going to be like, and some of my lines, including the iconic ‘May the Force be with you’, I recognised the importance of my character," he explained.
Yen, eventually joined by fellow Chinese actor Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus, also criticised previous Hollywood movies for including Chinese actors in "meaningless roles with meaningless dialogue", saying that it's usually a "turn off for the fans".
3. It was Yen's idea to make Chirrut Îmwe blind
"They asked for my opinions after giving me the script, and I told them I thought the character could use some more distinctive characteristics," he said.
"It’s very much consistent with the story of the film, because when you can’t see, you have to feel things with your heart. Martial arts is also about feeling with one’s heart."
In fact, the martial arts legend was allowed quite a bit of input in fleshing out his 'Rogue One' character, including choreographing most of his stunts and even injecting his own personality into Chirrut Îmwe.
4. Not only that, he performed his stunts while wearing whited-out contacts, which made it nearly impossible for him to see at all!
Weeks before filming began, Yen actually trained himself to imagine his surroundings to be pitch black so that his performance as the blind Force-sensitive warrior monk would be even more convincing.
5. Why didn't the Force-sensitive Chirrut Îmwe have a lightsaber? Well... Donnie Yen would take down Darth Vader and the Empire in like, ten seconds if he does. :p
Blind and brandishing only a wooden staff, Chirrut Îmwe could take down more than ten Stormtroopers by himself. Imagine what Donnie Yen could do if he had a pair of working eyes AND a lightsaber!
"Give me a lightsaber, you wouldn't have two hours of storytelling. Give Chirrut a lightsaber, he could take the Empire," he joked.
Donnie Yen joins the rebels of the Alliance in 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story', playing in cinemas nationwide now