Yen at the New York Asian Film Festival 2012
|Jyutping||Jan1 Zi2 Daan1 (Cantonese)|
|Ancestry||Taishan, Guangdong, China|
27 July 1963 |
Guangzhou, Guangdong, China
|Occupation||Actor, martial artist, film director and producer, action choreographer|
|Years active||1983 – present|
|Spouse(s)||Zing-Ci Leung (1993–1995) Cecilia Cissy Wang (2003 – present)|
Donnie Yen Facebook Official Page
Donnie Yen Sina Official Weibo (Chinese)
Donnie Yen Tencent Official Weibo (Chinese)
Donnie Yen (born 27 July 1963), also known as Yen Ji-dan (甄子丹), is a Hong Kong actor, martial artist, film director and producer, action choreographer, and multiple-time world wushu tournament champion.12
Yen is credited by many345 for contributing to the popularization of the traditional martial arts style known as Wing Chun. He played Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man in the 2008 film Ip Man, which was a box office success. This has led to an increase in the number of people taking up Wing Chun, leading to hundreds of new Wing Chun schools to be opened up in mainland China and other parts of Asia.6 Ip Chun, the eldest son of Ip Man, even mentioned that he is grateful to Yen for making his family art popular and allowing his father's legacy to be remembered.7
Yen is considered to be Hong Kong's top action star; director Peter Chan mentioned that he "is the 'it' action person right now" and "has built himself into a bona fide leading man, who happens to be an action star."8 Yen is widely credited for bringing mixed martial arts (MMA) into the mainstream of Chinese culture, by choreographing MMA in many of his recent films. Yen has displayed notable skills in a wide variety of martial arts, being well-versed in boxing, kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Hapkido, taekwondo, Muay Thai, wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wing Chun, and Wushu. Seen as one of the most popular film stars in Asia in recent years, Yen was one of the highest paid actors in Asia in 2009.9 Yen has earned 220 million HKD (28.4 million USD) from four films and six advertisements in 2013.10
Yen's mother, Bow-sim Mark (麥寶嬋), is a Fu Style Wudangquan (internal martial arts) and Tai Chi grandmaster, while his father, Klyster Yen (甄雲龍), is a newspaper editor.11 Yen was born in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. When he was two years old, his family moved to Hong Kong, and then to Boston, Massachusetts, United States, when he was 11.12 His younger sister, Chris Yen, is also a martial artist and actress, and appeared in the 2007 film Adventures of Johnny Tao: Rock Around the Dragon.
At a young age, under influence from his mother, Yen developed an interest in martial arts and began experimenting with various styles, including t'ai chi and other traditional Chinese martial arts. Yen then started karate when he was nine. Yen focused on practicing wushu seriously at age of fourteen after dropping out of school. His parents were concerned that he was spending too much time in the Boston Combat Zone, so they sent him to Beijing on a two-year training program with the Beijing Wushu Team.12 When Yen decided to return to the United States, he made a side-trip to Hong Kong and met action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping there. Yen finally started taekwondo on his later teens around age of sixteen.
Yen also came from a family of musicians. His mother is a soprano, in addition to being a martial arts teacher in Boston, while his father is a violinist.13 From a young age, he was taught by his parents to play musical instruments, including the piano.1415 He also knows hip-hop dancing and breakdancing.161718
After filming Drunken Tai Chi and Tiger Cage (1988), Yen made his breakthrough role as General Nap-lan in Once Upon a Time in China II (1992), which included a fight scene between his character and Wong Fei-hung (played by Jet Li). Yen had a starring role in the film Iron Monkey in 1993. Yen and Li appeared together again in the 2002 film Hero, where Yen played a spear (or qiang) fighter who fought with Li's character, an unnamed swordsman. The film was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar at the 2003 Academy Awards.
In 1995, Yen starred as Chen Zhen (Cantonese: Chan Zan) in the television series Fist of Fury produced by ATV, which is adapted from the 1972 film of the same title that starred Bruce Lee as Chen Zhen. Yen reprised his role as Chen Zhen in the 2010 film Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen.
In 1997, Yen started the production company Bullet Films, and made his directorial debut19 in Legend of the Wolf (1997) and Ballistic Kiss (1998), in which he played the lead character. Yen went on to choreograph fight scenes and appeared in minor roles in some Hollywood films, such as Highlander: Endgame (2000) and Blade II (2002).
Yen choreographed most of the fight animation in the 2004 video game Onimusha 3, which featured actors Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jean Reno. Yen continued to be active in the Hong Kong cinema in the 2000s, starring as Chu Zhaonan in Tsui Hark's wuxia epic film Seven Swords, and as Ma Kwun in Wilson Yip's brutal crime drama film SPL: Sha Po Lang in 2005. Both films were featured at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival. Later that year, Yen co-starred with Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue in Wilson Yip's Dragon Tiger Gate, an adaptation of Wong Yuk-long's manhua series Oriental Heroes. Yen also worked as action choreographer in Stormbreaker, starring Alex Pettyfer. Yen's continued to work with Wilson Yip in Flash Point (2007) in which he starred as the lead character and served as producer and action choreographer for the film. He won the Best Action Choreography at the Golden Horse Film Awards and the Hong Kong Film Awards for his performance in Flash Point.
In 2008, Yen starred in Ip Man, a semi-biographical account of Yip Man, the Wing Chun master of Bruce Lee. Ip Man marked Yen's fourth collaboration with director Wilson Yip, reuniting him with his co-stars in SPL: Sha Po Lang, Sammo Hung and Simon Yam. Ip Man became the biggest box office hit to date which featured Yen in the leading role, grossing HK$25 million in Hong Kong and 100 million yuan in China.2021
In August 2011, while Yen was on a vacation with his family in the United States, he reportedly received an invitation by producer Avi Lerner to star in The Expendables 2. It was stated that Yen is considering the offer, and has many films at hand, and will not decide until he sees if the script appeals to him or not.22 Later on, Yen revealed to the Hong Kong media that he has rejected the role.23
In 2011, Yen revealed that he is venturing into other genres of movies, and has taken up two comedy roles in a row, All's Well, Ends Well 2011 and All's Well, Ends Well 2012 and will be working with Carina Lau in the former and Sandra Ng in the latter. Both films obtained huge critical and box-office successes and proved that Yen is a versatile actor.24
Yen took a 6 months break in the 2nd half of 2011 after the filming of Monkey King 3D, citing the reason that he wants to spend more time with his family and be with his children more often during their growing up process.
In 2012, Yen returned to the movie industry and commence the filming of Special Identity where he plays the main lead, an undercover cop and also takes on the role of action choreographer. In 2013, it is reported that Donnie Yen will be playing the lead role for The Iceman Cometh 3D, a sci-fi action film which deals with time-travelling, the whole movie is filmed in 3D. Yen has confirmed that MMA will be used in both of the above films.25
In February 2013, the Weinstein Company has confirmed to have purchased the rights of a Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sequel and is contacting Yen to play the male lead. In March 2013, Hong Kong magazines surfaced photos of Harvey Weinstein and Bob Weinstein travelling to Hong Kong specially to meet up with Donnie Yen to persuade him to accept the offer. It was reported that Yen is considering the role and is quoted as saying “The first is that my schedule this year is very packed. The second is that the first film is already such a classic. I am afraid of the pressure, that the original cannot be surpassed.”26
In May 2013, during the annual Cannes Film Festival, the Weinstein Company announced that Donnie Yen will play the lead role in the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Sequel, titled Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II – The Green Destiny, with leading female action star Michelle Yeoh reprising her role as Yu Shu Lien. It will be directed by Donnie Yen's mentor, Yuen Woo-ping. It is revealed that the movie will be filmed in both English and Mandarin to appeal to the international market.27
It is revealed during the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II press conference that the Weinstein Company has obtained rights to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai and is planning a re-make and hence is negotiating with Yen, George Clooney and Zhang Ziyi to star in the upcoming film.2829 Donnie Yen has since declined the offer, due to scheduling conflicts for the filming of Ip Man 3.
In late March 2015, Ip Man 3 was announced. Yen will be reprising his role as the titular character, Bruce Lee's martial arts master, Ip Man. Retired Professional Boxer - Former Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson has been confirmed to join the cast.30
Donnie Yen has since mentioned that he is a big fan of Mike Tyson, and has watched many of his professional boxing bouts, and is excited to work with him. Mike Tyson stated during a press conference that he is a huge fan of Donnie Yen, and has watched the first two Ip Man movies more than three times each and is honored to be invited for the final installment of the trilogy.31
Principal photography for Ip Man 3 has begun on 25 March 2015, with a tentative release date of Lunar New Year 2016, in 3D.
|Height||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)33|
|Weight||165 lb (75 kg; 11 st 11 lb)|
|Style||Boxing, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Hapkido, Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, Wrestling, Wushu|
6th Degree Black Belt in |
Black Belt in Judo
Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Gold Medals in Wushu Competitions
Yen describes himself as a mixed martial artist.1 He learned Tai Chi from a young age, under his mother's tutelage. He then wanted to learn taekwondo in his teenage years, earning a 6th Dan in the process. At the time, the Beijing wushu team had a scout in the United States, and invited Yen over to Beijing, China, where he began training at the Beijing Sports Institute, the same facility where champion-turned actor Jet Li trained; this is where the two of them crossed paths for the first time.34
Yen later went on to discover and to seek knowledge on other martial arts styles; he would later obtain respectively black and purple belts from judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and went on to study the art of parkour, wrestling, Muay Thai, kickboxing and boxing under various trainers. His exposure to mixed martial arts (MMA) was heightened when he went back to the United States from 2000 to 2003. While making his Hollywood debut, he also took time off to learn the various martial arts forms.36 The progress was evident when he returned to Asia, where he implemented his newfound knowledge of MMA showcased in films such as SPL: Sha Po Lang (2005) and Flash Point (2007).
Near the end of 2007, Yen added a new martial arts system to his arsenal. He was offered the role of Wing Chun grandmaster and Bruce Lee's mentor, Ip Man, in a 2008 film named after the grandmaster. He worked hard and studied Wing Chun under Ip Man's eldest son, Ip Chun for 9 months before tackling the role.3738 Ip Chun has since praised Yen for his effort, and complimented that Yen is a great martial artist and a fast learner, and has managed to grasp the full concept of Wing Chun much faster than anyone else he has taught.39
Yen believes that combining many martial arts together will produce the most effective and harmonious style. Yen has said, "When you watch my films, you're feeling my heart."40 He believes in practical combat, and in his opinion, MMA is the most authentic type of practical combat.41 He has mentioned that he would have competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship if he did not have a recurring shoulder injury.
Donnie Yen was a rebel when he was young, due to the huge expectations and pressures from his parents as his mother is the founder of the Chinese Wushu Research Institute in Boston and his father was a scholar and a musician.42 Yen joined a Chinatown gang in Boston, MA, in his early years. Donnie Yen was a very curious teenager who seeks to exchange martial arts knowledge with people from different martial arts background, leading to him having profound knowledge in practical martial arts, and having a reputation as a street brawler.
There's one reported occasion that confirms him being an efficient martial artist. According to news reports by Hong Kong news channels in the late 1990s, Donnie Yen was at a nightclub with his then girlfriend, Joey Meng. Inside the nightclub, Joey got harassed by a troublesome gang who took an interest in her. Yen warned them of leaving them alone but to no success. As they got out, the gang followed them and proceeded to prevent Yen from intervening by attacking him. This resulted in Yen beating the assailants up in self-defense and getting arrested by the police but was released the next day. According to the news, Yen beat up 8 members of the gang who were hospitalized.43
This incident is still known in Hong Kong to this day - with people bringing it up in discussions concerning real fights as well as in relation to comparing credible fighting skills of various Hong Kong martial arts actors.
Malaysian Tan Sri and Martial Arts Star Michelle Yeoh has mentioned that Donnie Yen is the fastest guy she has worked with. Other martial arts star such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li also admits that Donnie Yen may be the best fighter in terms of practical combat in the Asian Cinematic Universe.44
World class fighters such as former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Cung Le and former World Boxing Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson who has worked with Donnie Yen in films Bodyguards and Assassins and Ip Man 3 respectively, have both claimed that Donnie Yen is an incredible martial artist and will do well in authentic combat.45
Donnie Yen is considered as one of the premiere action choreographer in the world, being invited by Hollywood to Choreograph Blockbusters such as Blade II, Highlander: Endgame and Shanghai Knights. In Asia, he is the action choreographer for most of his movies, and won multiple awards for his action choreography.
Yen most famous works include films such as Flash Point and SPL: Sha Po Lang. He has mentioned that the main differences in film-making in Asia and Hollywood is with regards to freedom and control. In Asia, the action choreographer takes over the scene during the fight scene. This means that for action scenes filmed in Asia, the choreographer becomes the director and is in full control over camera placements, camera angles and the relationship between the drama and the action, therefore the main director is not needed at all. While in Hollywood, Donnie explains that action choreographer simply choreograph the actions with the director, full control such as settings and camera angles are still within the control of the main director.46
Yen was the fight choreographer for the 2010 film Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. For this film, Yen mentioned that he included Jeet Kune Do elements as a tribute to Bruce Lee, who played Chen Zhen in the 1972 film Fist of Fury.22 Furthermore he incorporated many MMA elements in the film, coupled with the utilization of Wing Chun. Yen also stated that the concept behind Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do is similar to that of MMA, hence the incorporation of many forms of martial arts is a necessity in this film.47
He won the Hong Kong Film Award for Best Action Choreography 4 times, being one of the most frequent winner for this coveted award, his winning choreography includes The Twins Effect, SPL: Sha Po Lang, Flash Point and Kung Fu Jungle.48 Although uncredited, Donnie Yen was also action co-choreographer for Hong Kong Film Award winners such as Ip Man, Ip Man 2 and Bodyguards and Assassins.
In his prime, Donnie stood at 5 feet 8 inches, and weighed in at 165pounds. Donnie Yen is known to be a very stocky guy. Within the Hong Kong Cinematic Industry, Yen was renowned for his physical fitness, strength and speed, achieved through his use of a strict and disciplined fitness regimen to build up strength and fitness.
Yen also has a very delicate and dedicated diet routine, taking nutrition and health seriously. Yen focused on having high-protein drinks and vitamin and mineral supplements.
Yen has stated that he is a big fan of the MMA organization Ultimate Fighting Championship, and has watched almost every UFC event available. In various interviews, he has mentioned that he would have loved to compete in the Ultimate Fighting Championship if he did not have a recurring shoulder injury.50
In the October 2014, Donnie Yen was invited to be a guest speaker in front of a crowd of 20,000 youths for We Day Vancouver, where he spoke about the hardships he faced growing up, and how he overcame difficulties to become the reigning martial arts star.51
Yen is a known advocate of charity, known for his generous donations to various charity. In 2015, he personally visited refugee camps in Thailand, bringing donations and gifts for the refugees.52 Donnie Yen is also an ambassador for the international charity known as Free the Children.
In 1993, Yen married Zing-Ci Leung. Their son, Jeff, was born in 1995. Yen married Cecilia Wang in Toronto in 2003. They have a daughter, Jasmine, born in 2004, and a son, James, born in 2007.
|1993||Once Upon a Time in China II||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|2002||Iron Monkey||Taurus World Stunt Awards||Best Fight||Nominated|
|2003||The Twins Effect||Golden Horse Awards||Best Action Choreography||Won|
|2004||The Twins Effect||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Won|
|2006||Kill Zone||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Won|
|2007||Dragon Tiger Gate||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Nominated|
|2007||Dragon Tiger Gate||Golden Bauhinia Awards||Best Action Choreography||Won|
|2007||Flash Point||Golden Horse Awards||Best Action Choreography||Won|
|2008||Flash Point||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Won|
|2008||Flash Point||Taurus World Stunt Awards||Best Action in a Foreign Language Film||Won|
|2009||Ip Man||Beijing College Student Film Festival||Best Actor||Won|
|2009||Ip Man||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Actor||Nominated|
|2009||Ip Man||Huabiao Film Award||Outstanding Abroad Actor||Won|
|2010||Bodyguards and Assassins||Hundred Flowers Awards||Best Actor||Nominated|
|2011||Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Nominated|
|2011||The Lost Bladesman||The 3rd Macau International Movie Festival||Best Actor||Won|
|2011||Dragon||Golden Horse Awards||Best Action Choreography||Won|
|2012||Dragon||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Nominated|
|2014||Special ID||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Nominated|
|2014||8th Asian Film Awards||8th Asian Film Awards||Asian Outstanding Actor||Won|
|2015||Youku Night Awards||Youku Night Awards||2014's Most Influential Actor||Won|
|2015||The Monkey King||15th Huading Awards||Best Actor||Won|
|2015||Kung Fu Jungle||Hong Kong Film Award||Best Action Choreography||Won|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Donnie Yen.|
- The Official Donnie Yen Website DonnieYen.Asia
- Donnie Yen Facebook Official Page
- Donnie Yen Sina Official Weibo (Chinese)
- Donnie Yen Tencent Official Weibo (Chinese)
- Donnie Yen at the Internet Movie Database
- Donnie Yen's Sina blog site
- "An Action Star Moves to the Lead," New York Times article
- Donnie Yen profile page at Hong Kong Cinemagic
- Stokes, Lisa; Michael Hoover (2000). "An Interview with Donnie Yen". Asian Cult Cinema 29 (4th quarter): pp.48–62.