Donnie Yen - Page 2 of 2


Yen admitted that he had little knowledge of the Wing Chun style before taking on the role. “Since director Wilson Yip asked me to play this role,” Yen said, “I spent nine months studying and practicing Wing Chun.” Wilson Yip expressed his appreciation for Yen’s dedication to the project, noting, “Yen went on a diet to duplicate the actual fitness of Yip Man.”

After Ip Man Yen’s rate skyrocketed from 5 million yuan (about $1 mil.) to 20 million yuan (about $4 mil.) per film, almost double the 11 million yuan ($2.2 mil.) commanded by Hong Kong star Tony Leung Chiu Wai and the 9 million yuan ($1.8 mil.) of Andy Lau. Yen still trails Jet Li and who commands a 25 million yuan ($5 mil.) fee and Jackie Chan’s price tag of 30 million yuan ($6.1 mil.). However, as Yen’s Ip Man 2 released in May 2010 grossed over HK$13 million ($2.3 mil.) during its opening weekend, Yen is likely to close the gap with Li and Chan.

Donnie Yen married Cecilia Cissy Wang in Toronto in 2003. Wang had won the Miss Chinese Toronto title in 2000. They have a daughter, Jasmine, born in 2004, and a son, James, born in 2007. Yen is known to be as tender off-screen as he is tough on. Unfortunately, Yen’s hectic schedule keeps him away from home much of the year. In 2009 he shot four mainland dramas.

“If I am away from home for a long time because of filming, I will call my wife four to five times a day,” Yen confesses. “I tell her what happened during the day, and promise her that I will get home as soon as possible after the film is completed.”

Early this year he reportedly insured each of his limbs for HK$100 million ($17.9 million) naming Cecilia as the beneficiary of the policies.

Donnie Yen’s prospects of becoming an international superstar are exceptionally bright thanks to his ability to transcend the language and cultural barriers between Hong Kong and Hollywood. Having been born in China, raised in the U.S., and having spent years working in Hong Kong and China, Yen is fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and English. He has already appeared in Hollywood movies like Highlander: Endgame and Blade 2.

In Highlander, Yen’s first American project, Yen plays a villain opposite Christopher Lambert. He also served as the film’s martial arts choreographer. Yen was asked to play a good vampire in Blade 2 but his role was short, with only one fight and little dialogue. Both characters met unceremonious ends. “Frankly speaking, I was not really proud of the film,” Yen told an interviewer after Highlander.

Despite his minimal impact in Hollywood movies to date, Yen’s name has already gained currency in the West. His films like Seven Swords, Flash Point, Empress and the Warriors and others continue to enjoy theatrical releases in many overseas markets. Yen’s performances and the quality of his projects compare favorably with those of Jackie Chan and Jet Li at comparable stages of their career. Already Yen’s acting and fighting skills are comparable to those of Chan and Li in their primes. Judging by his impressive career trajectory so far, one can’t help bestow on Donnie Yen the title “Most Likely to Become Hollywood’s Next Martial Arts Superstar”.

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