Donnie Yen

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Yen.
Donnie Yen
Donnie Yen 2012.jpg
Yen at the New York Asian Film Festival 2012
Chinese name 甄子丹
Jyutping Jan1 Zi2 Daan1 (Cantonese)
Ancestry Taishan, Guangdong, China
Origin Hong Kong
Born (1963-07-27) 27 July 1963 (age 51)
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)
Children 3
Official Website DonnieYen.Asia
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 world wushu tournament medalist.1

Yen is credited by many234 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.5 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.6

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."7 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 2009.8 Yen has earned 220 million HKD (28.4 million USD) from four films and six advertisements in 2013.9

Early life

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.10 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 11.11 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.11 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.12 From a young age, he was taught by his parents to play musical instruments, including the piano.1314 He also knows hip-hop dancing and breakdancing.151617


Donnie Yen in Seoul in 2005

Yen was a stuntman in his earliest films, Shaolin Drunkard (1983) . At the age of 20, he got his first acting role in the 1984 film Drunken Tai Chi.

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 debut18 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).

In 2003, Yen played the antagonist against Jackie Chan in Shanghai Knights.

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.1920

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.21 Later on, Yen revealed to the Hong Kong media that he has rejected the role.22

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.23

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.24

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.”25

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.26

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.2728

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.29 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. Principal photography has begun in 25 March 2015, with a tentative release date of Lunar New Year 2016, in 3D.

During Ip Man 3's announcement press conference, Donnie Yen appeared visibly thinner and has personally stated that at age 51, this might be his last Kung Fu film.30

Action choreography

Yen also works as an action choreographer, having done the choreography for films such as Flash Point and SPL: Sha Po Lang.

In recent years, Yen's work as a choreographer won him "Best Action Choreography" awards at the 27th Hong Kong Film Awardscitation needed and the 2008 and 2011 Golden Horse Film Awards.citation needed

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.21 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.31

Martial arts history, style and philosophy

Donnie Yen
Height 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)32
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
Rank      6th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo
     Black Belt in Judo
     Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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. When he was a teenager, he obtained a medal in a wushu competition held in the United States, known as Boston Combat Zone. 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.33

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.34 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.3536 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.37

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."38 He believes in practical combat, and in his opinion, MMA is the most authentic type of practical combat.39 He has mentioned that he would have competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship if he did not have a recurring shoulder injury.

Personal life

Yen has stated that he is a big fan of the MMA organization Ultimate Fighting Championship, and has watched almost every UFC event available.40

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.


Awards and nominations

Year Nominated work Award Category Results
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


In 2011, Jacob & Co unveiled Donnie Yen as brand ambassador.41

See also


  1. ^ a b "Enter the Teacher to the Dragon of Martial Arts Films". The New York Times. 23 January 2011. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Learning Wing Chun – Why I Started Wing Chun". Practice Wing Chun. 13 December 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  3. ^ Ah Beng (26 July 2010). "Ip Man 1 & 2 (Donnie Yen) | Tai Chi". Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Finding a Wing Chun School in Manila | Applied Wing Chun Philippines". 28 November 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "Ip Chun (葉準), 84yo wing chun legend". Youtube. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  6. ^ "叶问之子叶准 否认和甄子丹闹不合 | 联合早报Singapore". 20 May 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop, "An Action Star Moves to the Lead" Retrieved 13 October 2009.
  8. ^ "Donnie Yen Crossing Path With Cung Le In More Ways Than One". Wu-Jing.ORG. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Louis Koo is highest earning actor of 2013". Yahoo! News Asia. 26 December 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  10. ^ "Donnie Yen Biography (1963–)". Biography. Film Reference. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  11. ^ a b "Donnie Yen Biography". Biography. Starpulse. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  12. ^ ="The Legend of Westernised Chen Zhen, The Piano Virtuoso". WuJing.Org. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  13. ^ "Donnie Yen Biography". DonnieYen.Net. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "Donnie Yen shows off his moves...on the Piano!!". Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  15. ^ "Mismatched Couples – Bboy Donnie Yen 1985 (Yuen Woo Ping)". YouTube. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  16. ^ "Mismatched Couples Donnie Yen dance". YouTube. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  17. ^ "Donnie Yen breakdance". YouTube. 12 September 2006. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  18. ^ "Stephan Berwick's "The Evolution of an American Martial Artist"". Martial Arts article. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  19. ^ "China Box Office January 12–18, 2009". Box Office statistics. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  20. ^ "Hong Kong Box Office, December 18–21, 2008". Box Office statistics. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 April 2009. 
  21. ^ a b "Donnie Yen Joining The Cast Of THE EXPENDABLES 2?". Twitch Films. 21 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2011. 
  22. ^ [Movies-Donnie-Yen-Explains-Why-He-Passed-On-The-Expendables-2.htm "Donnie Yen rejects Expendables 2"]. 411mania. 21 August 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2012. 
  23. ^ hktopten (24 September 2011). "Donnie Yen Teams With Sandra Ng For Laughs". Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  24. ^ Impact Online (12 May 2013). "Donnie Yen: Special Identity". Impact Online. Retrieved 17 May 2013. 
  25. ^ Channel News Asia (12 Mar 2013). "Donnie Yen mulls lead role in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" sequel". Donnie Yen Asia. Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  26. ^ Weinstein Company (17 May 2013). "‘Crouching Tiger’ Sequel Shooting Next Spring; Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen to Star". Slash Film. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  27. ^ Deadline Hollywood (19 May 2013). "Cannes: Before Action Starts On ‘Crouching Tiger 2,’ Harvey Weinstein Woos Donnie Yen And Yuen Wo Ping For ‘Seven Samurai’". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  28. ^ Yahoo News Singapore (23 May 2013). "Donnie Yen in Akira Kurosawa remake". Yahoo News Singapore. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  29. ^ IGN (24 Mar 2053). "MIKE TYSON, CGI BRUCE LEE TO FEATURE IN IP MAN 3". Retrieved 13 Apr 2015.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  30. ^ Malaysian Chronicle (30 Mar 2015). [h "'Ip Man 3' may be Donnie Yen's LAST action movie"]. Malaysian Chroncil. Retrieved 7 Apr 2015. 
  31. ^ "Donnie Yen Making New Moves for Return of Chen Zhen". 22 September 2010. Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  32. ^ "Donnie Yen – Biography". IMDB. Retrieved 18 August 2011. 
  33. ^ Valentin, Albert (16 September 2010). "FACES: DONNIE YEN | Martial Connect". Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  34. ^ "Questions with Flash Point Star Donnie Yen". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  35. ^ ShadowWarrior8038. "Donnie Yen learning Wing Chun from Master Ip Chun". Youtube. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  36. ^ 甄子丹对《叶问》票房无信心 耍咏春拳赚口碑 |网网网络
  37. ^ "《叶问前传》首映 叶准改口赞甄子丹学咏春很快Ip Chun says Yen learns Wing Chun Fast | 人民网 People's news". People's Daily. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  38. ^ "Donnie Yen's Philosophy | Donnie Yen's Official website". Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  39. ^ "Interview: Donnie Yen on Flash Point's Revolutionary Choreography". Wu Jing.Org. Retrieved 17 December 2011. 
  40. ^ "Donnie Yen interview on Flashpoint". YouTube/ 22 September 2010. Retrieved 21 September 2008. 
  41. ^ Zelesny, Elizabeth. "Jacob & Co. taps Donnie Yen as brand ambassador". Napean LLC. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 

External links