MCM London Comic Con’s latest special guest is one of the top international action film stars and a true martial arts legend – Donnie Yen! Recently starring on our screens as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe, Yen is an acclaimed actor, director, producer and fight choreographer as well as a highly accomplished martial artist.
We’re delighted to announce that Donnie Yen will be appearing on the MCM Buzz stage at noon on Friday 26 May and will be giving a panel in the Upper Platinum suite at 15:00 on Saturday; he will also be meeting fans and signing autographs on both those days.
Action icon Donnie Yen has long dominated the Chinese film scene as both a superstar leading man and as a director of his own high octane brand of movie martial arts.
Yen exploded onto the Hong Kong movie scene when he was cast in the lead role of director Yuen Woo-ping’s Drunken Tai Chi. Yen, the son of Boston-based Kung-Fu instructor Bow Sim-mark, was tailor-made for the jade screen, having trained in martial arts since early childhood.
Born in Canton but raised in Boston, Yen has always been unique among martial arts stars in that his persona balances both the martial virtues of his mother and the scholarly and musical ones of his father, Klysler. Aside from his training in the various combative systems, Yen is also a gifted pianist, and critics have noted the musical phrasing and tempo of his performances and action set pieces.
With a solid foundation in his mother’s wushu style, Donnie’s debut film immediately established him as a viable Kung-Fu movie hero. He went on to star in and choreograph both period kung fu epics and contemporary fight flicks, winning numerous awards and establishing a worldwide fan base. He is now bringing his unique screen persona and action style to Hollywood and the world with the blockbusters xXx: Return of Xander Cage and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Already an established star in Hong Kong, Donnie Yen had earlier come to the attention of director Quentin Tarantino, who released Donnie’s film Iron Monkey in North America, several years after its Asian release. A re-cut, re-scored version of the film was distributed in US theatres, and won Best Choreography prize at that year’s Taurus Awards.
In the wake of his Asian success as star and action director, Donnie was engaged to act and/or choreograph such high profile international projects as Highlander: Endgame, Stormbreaker, Blade 2 and Shanghai Knights. Global audiences saw Donnie Yen the Kung-Fu icon at the height of his game when he duelled Jet Li in Zhang Yimou’s Oscar-nominated Hero, still the most successful Chinese film ever.
On returning to Hong Kong, Donnie combined the best from East and West when he co-directed the hit SFX action adventure The Twins Effect. The film earned Yen his first Best Action Director prize at both the Hong Kong Film and Taiwanese Golden Horse Awards. Away from the cameras, Yen entered into the most rewarding partnership of his life when he married former beauty queen, Cissy Wang. The couple now has two children, a girl and boy, Jasmine and James.
For the thriller SPL, Yen brought the dynamic moves of American Mixed Martial Arts to the movies, and his final reel duel with Sammo Hung is now regarded as a classic of the genre. The film won Yen his second consecutive Best Action Choreography prize at the Hong Kong Film Awards. Donnie went on to deliver ground-breaking no-holds-barred action in front of and behind the camera for his films Flashpoint and Special ID.
Yen took his career to a whole new level when he played Bruce Lee’s teacher in Ip Man. This historical martial arts masterpiece proved to be a huge hit in the Asian market, and an instant cult classic worldwide. Yen enjoyed ever greater success with two sequels to the film, with a fourth instalment in the Ip Man franchise currently being prepared. Ip Man confirmed Yen’s position as China’s greatest martial arts action film-maker.
His next project, Bodyguards and Assassins, swept the board at the Hong Kong Film Awards, with its haul of prizes including Best Picture. Donnie enjoyed even greater acclaim as star and choreographer for his work on director Peter Chan’s Wu Xia (aka Dragon), a dark martial arts murder mystery. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and subsequently received a North American theatrical release from The Weinstein Company. Yen’s choreography won Dragon Best Choreography at the prestigious Taiwanese Golden Horse awards
In the wake of Ip Man, Donnie came into his own as a screen performer, and received critical acclaim and multiple award nominations for his acting, rather than action, skills. The Hong Kong Film Awards recognized his performances in Ip Man and The Lost Bladesman, while Bodyguards and Assassins saw him nominated for Best Actor at the Chinese Hundred Flower awards. Donnie was also voted ‘Most Charismatic Actor’ at Hong Kong’s HKSC awards and also Best International Actor at China’s Huabiao festival.
In a change of pace, Donnie Yen donned extensive prosthetics to play The Monkey King in the smash hit reimagining of the Chinese classic. Yen also choreographed the action for the film, which smashed box office records in Mainland China.
Donnie was then approached to help revitalize the greatest brand in the history of Chinese martial arts cinema. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny was shot primarily on location in New Zealand, with Yen in the lead role. The world-class creative team gathered by producer Harvey Weinstein included legendary kung fu film director Yuen Woo-ping, acclaimed directors Peter Berg and Morten Tyldum (as producers), X-Men series DP Tom Sigel as well as the Oscar-winning production, costume and FX designers from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film series. The film debuted in most international territories as a Netflix Original movie, making it the most widely seen Kung-Fu movie of all time.
Yen’s cinematic legacy has inspired a whole generation of action film-makers, with many of the leading players in the Hollywood stunt circle openly acknowledging him as a mentor and hero. He is perceived as being an action auteur who brought the art back to the martial for his stunning on-screen set-pieces.
Having conquered every territory beneath the Asian skies, Yen accepted an invitation to join the cast of the latest entry in the world’s biggest film franchise. In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Yen portrayed Chirrut Imwe. A key player in the Rebel mission to steal the Death Star plans, capable of single-handedly taking out a squadron of Stormtroopers with just a wooden staff and his trust in the Force, Chirrut has quickly become one of the major breakout characters in Rogue One.
To further solidify his star status in America, Yen next stared opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. Donnie’s charismatic portrayal as Xiang was well received by U.S. film critics. Rolling Stone, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and L.A. Times were effusive, calling Yen’s performance as Xiang a “stand out” and that he “stole the show.”
To recognise his importance in the film industry, Donnie was honoured with a Hand and Footprint Ceremony at the world famous TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood
Now firmly established as a leading player across the globe, Donnie Yen continues to present a unique blend of Eastern experience and Western innovation, of musical grace with martial impact, from Hong Kong to a galaxy far, far away….
UPDATE: Mr. Yen will be doing a program, presented by The Modern School of Film (www.modernschooloffilm.com), called ‘Donnie Yen : The State of Martial Arts’.
Curated by Mr. Yen and the Modern School of Film, take this visual ‘tour’ of the current forms, figures, trends, and future visions of martial arts cinema and television, through the eyes and words of a true artist, innovator, and master of this most iconic of genres. Which martial arts works most inspired Master Yen’s journey? Who are the current trailblazers in the form? What are the future trends in martial arts motion-arts? This will be a one-of-a-kind opportunity to hear a master artist map out this timeless art form in pictures and in words (and perhaps a kick or two…)
Whether it’s an awestruck Anthony Bourdain praising Goodfellas, Alanis Morissette and Kristin Wiig singing along with Bridesmaids, Brian Bendis sharing his love for Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, or Alex Ross discussing how The Matrix was a cultural game-changer, the U.S.-based The Modern School of Film delivers an evening like no other. Intelligent and irreverent; stimulating and spontaneous; intimate and unforgettable.
All events are hosted by The Modern School of Film’s founder Robert Milazzo.
— This news story is for May 2017’s MCM London Comic Con —