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Yen, Donnie Biography


biography of Yen, Donnie

Zhen Zidan
27 July 1963, Canton, China
175 cm
Martial artist and Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen was born in Canton, China, on July 27, 1963 to newspaper editor Klyster Yen and martial arts master Bow Sim Mark. At the age of four, Donnie started taking up martial arts from his mother who taught him tai chi and wushu until he was eleven when he moved to Boston, MA, with his family. From there, Donnie continued with tai chi and wushu but soon also began experimenting with various others martial art styles, such as taekwondo, kickboxing and boxing, after developing a huge interest in martial arts. When he was sixteen, his parents sent him to Beijing Wushu Academy so he could train Chinese MA under Master Wu Bin, well known as the coach of 'Jet Li' (qv). He underwent intensive training for three years. After those years passed by, he was about to leave back to the States, but made a side trip to Hong Kong, and there he was accidentally introduced to famous Hong Kong action director 'Woo-ping Yuen' (qv), who was responsible for bringing 'Jackie Chan (I)' (qv) to super stardom and was looking for someone new to star in his movies. Donnie was offered a screen test and thereafter a 4-picture deal after passing it; first starting with stunt doubling duty on the movie _Qi men dun jia (1982)_ (qv) before starring in his first film, _Siu taai gik (1984)_ (qv), at the age of 19. He continued his early film career working independently with 'Woo-ping Yuen' (qv) and at TVB, gaining more acting experience, and then started getting attention in the late 1980s and mid 1990s after he was offered a contract by the D&B Films Co. whom gave him major roles in the well known films _Dak ging to lung (1988)_ (qv), _Wong gaa si ze IV - Zik gik zing jan (1989)_ (qv) and _Sai hak chin (1990)_ (qv) which got his reputation spread out within the Hong Kong film circuit. But after a while, the company did not do well and in the end went bankrupt which left Donnie with no choice but to go back to TVB and venture into low-budget film-making. But the misfortune didn't last long. Famous director 'Hark Tsui' (qv) had just made a successful attempt to revive the kung fu genre with _Wong Fei Hung (1991)_ (qv) which starred 'Jet Li' (qv), and was looking for someone to play the new nemesis in the sequel _Wong Fei Hung II - Nam yi dong ji keung (1992)_ (qv). Through Donnie's earlier films and his rep as one of the most effective pound-for-pound on-screen fighters, Hark became hooked and decided to approach, discuss, and eventually cast him in the role of General Lan which became a turning point in Donnie's career. His fight scenes with 'Jet Li' (qv) revolutionized the standards of Hong Kong martial arts choreography at the time and are still regarded as among the best fights ever created in Hong Kong film history. Another acclaim by critics and movie goers was Donnie's acting performance, which was so outstanding that he was nominated for the "Best Supporting Actor" award at the 1992 Hong Kong Film Awards. After that excellent performance, Donnie starred in other successful and classic movies, such as _Sun lung moon hak chan (1992)_ (qv) for director 'Raymond Lee (II)' (qv) and _San lau sing woo dip gim (1993)_ (qv) by 'Michael Mak' (qv), but still continued to work with 'Woo-ping Yuen' (qv) on movies including _So Hak-Yee (1993)_ (qv), _Siu nin Wong Fei Hung ji: Tit Ma Lau (1993)_ (qv) and _Wing Chun (1994)_ (qv). But after that, both of them decided it was best to work on their own so they ended up going separate ways and haven't collaborated with each other ever since. During this period, Donnie got into TV work and worked on a couple of TV series for ATV as actor and action director. The first was _"Hung Hei Gun" (1994)_ (qv) which depicted the life of martial arts legend Hung Hei-Kwan. The TV series was a big success and Donnie continued the success and starred in and action directed _"Jing wu men" (1995)_ (qv), also successful, which retold the story of Chen Zhen, the character made famous by 'Bruce Lee (I)' (qv) in the original film classic with the same title. Aside the TV work, Donnie was offered roles by prolific director/producer 'Jing Wong' (qv) in movies such as _Dou Sing 2 - Gai Tau Dou Sing (1995)_ (qv) and got other offers which includes _Ma hei siu ji (1994)_ (qv) where he co-starred with local action star 'Yuen Biao' (qv), and _Ah sau ging gat si gou aat sin (1995)_ (qv) which was shot in the Philippines. In 1996, after leaving out a contract deal placed by 'Jing Wong' (qv), Donnie signed with the independent film company My Way Film Co. and started experimenting with directing and camera shooting. In 1997, he finally made his directorial debut with _Chin Long Chuen Suet (1997)_ (qv) and had created a different style of martial arts choreography which made a huge impact around the world for its' daring, braving, and fresh attempt to accomplish something new for the then dying martial arts action trend; with equally many both admiring and looking down on this style. Donnie continued to work behind-the-scenes on projects such as _Sat Sat Yan, Tiu Tiu Mo (1998)_ (qv), _Sun Tong San Tai Hing (1998)_ (qv), the German-produced TV movie _Der Puma - Kämpfer mit Herz (1999) (TV)_ (qv) and its' TV series counterpart one year after. In 2000, things took a turn for Donnie once again when US-based film company Dimension Films called and offered him a major role in _Highlander: Endgame (2000)_ (qv) as the immortal Jin Ke, that became his Hollywood debut. But sadly, the movie didn't performed very well at the box-office and many fans consider it to be a part of its' own in the franchise. Despite this, others also consider Donnie's action scenes to be highlights of the movie; especially his duel with 'Adrian Paul (I)' (qv). To the movie's as well as Miramax's credit though, offers followed shortly afterward. Donnie was invited to work behind the camera on _Shura Yukihime (2001)_ (qv) for Japanese director 'Shinsuke Sato' (qv) and _Blade II (2002)_ (qv) by 'Guillermo del Toro' (qv), the latter of which he also appeared in briefly as the mute vampire Snowman. In 2002 and 2003 respectively, Donnie's career went sky-high after he was offered and took up two memorable roles. Firstly, highly acclaimed Chinese director 'Yimou Zhang' (qv) offered Donnie the part of assassin Sky in _Ying xiong (2002)_ (qv) that starred 'Jet Li' (qv) and resulted the most anticipated fight scene of 2002 and huge income at the box-offices around the world. Secondly, director 'David Dobkin' (qv) casted him alongside 'Jackie Chan (I)' (qv) as the traitorous Wu Chow in _Shanghai Knights (2003)_ (qv), the follow-up to _Shanghai Noon (2000)_ (qv), which marked the first time Donnie worked with him in his career. Both of these collaborations gave Donnie Yen more recognition in the States and back in Hong Kong which in turn gave him more opportunities as an actor and action director. In the same year, Donnie decided to put hold of pursuing a career in Hollywood and flew back to Hong Kong to find quality work. Through his dear friend and Hong Kong cinema expert 'Bey Logan' (qv), he got signed up as action director on _Chin gei bin (2003)_ (qv) which was produced by Emperor Multimedia Group Co. (EMG) and starred the pop stars 'Gillian Chung' (qv) and 'Charlene Choi' (qv), and with 'Jackie Chan (I)' (qv) in a cameo appearance. The movie earned him a nomination for "Best Action Design" at the 2003 Hong Kong Film Awards and also the 2003 Golden Horse Awards, both of which he won. He continued to work on few movies after that, including _Gin chap hak mooi gwai (2004)_ (qv) as director and action director, and _Chin Kei Bin 2 - Fa Tou Tai Kam (2004)_ (qv) as actor, where he once again worked with 'Jackie Chan (I)' (qv) on an anticipated fight scene which was satisfying enough for fans. Later on in 2004, Donnie's career took a different turn when 'Hark Tsui' (qv) offered him a leading role in _Qi Jian (2005)_ (qv) which was an adaptation of a lengthy novel written by Liang Yu-Sheng about seven warriors and their mystical swords. Despite the disappointing box-office reception the movie got when it was released locally, the movie was nonetheless a great showcase for Donnie as an actor and action performer which was unlike anything he did in previous works. Around the same time, Donnie Yen also teamed up with 'Wilson Yip' (qv), another acclaimed director in Hong Kong, and together they made the highly anticipated crime drama _Saat po long (2005)_ (qv) which successfully combined intense drama and unique storytelling/visuals with groundbreaking martial arts action that went on to become favored by many fans and Hong Kong movie viewers after its release. Donnie's way of shooting MA action, which was nothing like people had already seen, earned him a nomination and a price at the 2005 Hong Kong Film Awards for "Best Action Design". The movie also led to a trend of similar HK action movies where storytelling/visuals along with hard-hitting MA action was to be highlighted as much as possible. After the success, Donnie and 'Wilson Yip' (qv) teamed up immediately for more collaborations which includes the comic book adaptation _Lung Fu Moon (2006)_ (qv) and the hard-hitting action drama _Dou fo sin (2007)_ (qv), both of which were very successful at the box-office and among viewers who today considers him as the new pinnacle of Hong Kong martial arts/action movies, thanks to these accomplishments. Donnie both earned the "Best Action Design" nomination at the 2006 Hong Kong Film Awards as well as the "Best Action Direction" nomination at 2006 Golden Bauhinia Awards for _Lung Fu Moon (2006)_ (qv) ending up winning the latter, while he was awarded for his action design on _Dou fo sin (2007)_ (qv) at both the 2007 Golden Bauhinia Awards and the 2007 Hong Kong Film Awards. In recent years, Donnie had a leading role in the battle epic _Jiang shan mei ren (2008)_ (qv) directed by acclaimed Hong Kong action director 'Siu-Tung Ching' (qv) which was a big success in Mainland China, and continued further with the supernatural romance movie _Hua pi (2008)_ (qv) by 'Gordon Chan' (qv), and the martial arts biopic _Yip Man (2008)_ (qv) helmed by 'Wilson Yip' (qv) which was based on the life of one of Bruce Lee's martial arts teachers, Yip Man. The latter became a sensational mega success all over China and people within the HK film industry started taking note after Wilson Yip's matured style of filmmaking, Sammo Hung's fresh MA choreography which many considers to be a redefinition of his career behind the scenes and, above all, Donnie's acting performance which many doubted at first but eventually highly praised. This has also led to other successful directors and producers approaching Donnie and giving him offers to work in front of the camera. Through his progression in the Hong Kong film industry from the start, when he was just like any other action performer, to nowadays as arguably the most offering leading martial arts actor and the most promising action director it's been proved that as long as Donnie Yen is still active in movie-making, whether working in front of or behind the camera, he will most certainly break grounds and create more innovative concepts of MA and fight choreography for the martial arts action genre realizing them with either his own brand of unique MA skills or with others, which fans are eager to see on the big screen.

-   'Cecilia Cissy Wang' (2003 - present); 2 children

-   Likes to choreograph realistic, creative and unconventional fight scenes

-   Known for playing tough and impulsive characters in his films.

-   Likes to execute various kicking techniques - including jumping splits-kick, jumping front-kick, jumping back-kick while running forward and chain-kicks while moving forward

-   Prefers to work with real martial artists in his films. His collaborations range from well-established practitioners such as 'Jet Li' (qv), 'Xin Xin Xiong' (qv), 'Jacky Wu' (qv), 'Yu Xing' (qv), 'Siu-Wong Fan' (qv) to experienced fighters like 'John Salvitti' (qv), 'Michael Woods (IV)' (qv) and 'Cung Le' (qv).

-   Frequently collaborates with 'Wilson Yip' (qv)

-   After the success of _Yip Man (2008)_ (qv), the use of rapid punching called "chain punching" has been used frequently in some of his recent films.

-   Grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

-   Classically trained pianist

-   Billed as Michael Ryan in his earlier films, until _Ah sau ging gat si gou aat sin (1995)_ (qv), released in the Philippines.

-   Can speak fluent Cantonese, English and Mandarin. Can also speak casual Korean, since he learned it as a requirement for his character during the filming of _Qi Jian (2005)_ (qv).

-   Brother of 'Chris Yen' (qv).

-   Current wife Cissy Wang was the winner of the Miss Chinese Toronto Pageant 2000. She also represented Toronto in 2001 for the Miss Chinese International Pageant.

-   Current wife Cissy Wang is nearly 18 years his junior.

-   Has a son from a previous marriage.

-   Was sent to Beijing, China, to continue his martial arts training and avoid committing crimes with a street gang.

-   Sustained a heavy injury in his right shoulder while making _Ching fung dik sau (1985)_ (qv) which still affects him to this day.

-   A big fan of 'Bruce Lee (I)' (qv).

-   Directed the intro sequence of _Onimusha 3 (2004) (VG)_ (qv).

-   Well trained in various martial arts styles, including wushu, tae kwon do, kick-boxing and boxing.

-   Was supposed to co-star with 'Brandon Lee (I)' (qv) in a sequel to _Long zai jiang hu (1986)_ (qv) but Lee's departure back to the States led to the idea being scrapped.

-   'Michelle Yeoh' (qv) considers him to be the fastest martial artist she has ever worked with.

-   Turned down the role of the main villain in both _Tai ji: Zhang San Feng (1993)_ (qv) and _Jui kuen II (1994)_ (qv) eventually played by 'Siu-hou Chin' (qv) and 'Ken Lo' (qv) respectively.

-   A former member of 'Woo-ping Yuen' (qv)'s stunt crew called "Yuen Clan".

-   Daughter (2004) named Jasmine W. Yen.

-   Newborn son (2007) named James W. Yen.

-   Can also understand Shanghainese, because his wife's family is Shanghainese.

-   Was recommended by 'Jet Li' (qv) to 'Yimou Zhang' (qv) who was looking for a replacement actor to play the role of Sky in _Ying xiong (2002)_ (qv).

-   Turned down the following Hollywood movies: _Rush Hour 2 (2001)_ (qv), _Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003)_ (qv), _The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)_ (qv), _The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)_ (qv), and _The Expendables 2 (2012)_ (qv).

-   Donnie Yen received the Star Asia Award before the screening of _Wu xia (2011)_ (qv) at the New York Asian Film Festival on Monday, July 9, 2012.

-   (On the inspiration of becoming a director) I have always been a rebel, in my whole entire life, since I was just a martial artist. I always have questions in the back of my mind. Why does it have to be this way? Can it be that way? I always try to question and challenge that system and I guess that kind of attitude I brought into the film industry when I was just an actor. I see different films; I see how a director or choreographer would choreograph it. And I say to myself "it can be improved, it can be better and in less time". Or I'd wonder "how come this film is a good film and the other one a bad film, when the budget is not much different?" There are certain techniques, a certain system. When I was an action choreographer, when I used to work for Yuen Woo Ping, I used to grab a whole team of people and just raise questions. To the photographer, or to Yuen Woo Ping: "could it be that way? Could be it, be that? Why not try it this way?" Very soon, I established a kind of trust from Yuen Woo Ping, because I made a lot of his films happen with my suggestions.

-   (On learning from veteran Hong Kong action directors) Of course it's Yuen Wo Ping. He brought me into the circle. Some of his filming techniques and styles bear great influence on me. Actually, I admire the techniques of other martial arts directors too; they have their own unique ways of handling action scenes. I hope to learn from them. This is my pursuit of martial arts all along - mixed martial arts.

-   (On changing generic fight choreography) Nowadays, martial arts directors go along with the advancement in filming techniques. We can use some techniques to coordinate with non-martial artists. In my early days with Yuen Wo Ping, technology was rather backward, whatever we did depended on the raw skills of the actors themselves; but the actors nowadays are exceptionally fortunate. They could rely on editing, doubles, wires, and even special effects to make them look like they could fight well. But I believe, now that the audiences seek authenticity in martial arts, they could be cast aside. That's why we are looking into real combat.

-   (On martial arts training) Music and movement are both expressions of the same basic human energy. They are like paints used to color the screen.

-   When you watch my films, you're feeling my heart.

-   (On working with 'Jet Li' (qv)) Ten years ago we did a film called "Once Upon A Time In China, Part II" and it raised the bar of martial arts standard and I was nominated as best supporting actor. "Hero" was a 10-year reunion for us. So we came in as a kind of expectation from the fans. The difference between the two times is the first time we had a rivalry going because I guess we were younger and it was our first time working with each other. But this time was more of a collaboration. We just wanted to make the best action sequence ever.

-   (On working locally and overseas) I don't identify a project as a Hong Kong project or a Hollywood project or whatever. The world's getting closer and closer. Who would think that "Crouching Tiger" would win an Oscar as Best Foreign Film? If the film is a good film, it will be seen by the world. I don't know where my home is. If it requires me to do a production in Europe, I go to Europe. If it's in Asian countries, I'll be in Asian countries.

-   (On exploring different movie roles outside MA movies) Yes, if someone wants to hire me, why not? Why not get paid the same and have less of a physical demand? But I would absolutely not stop. It's great to do martial arts films, and rep martial arts films, and be a successful icon, and set trends. I feel it's an honor to set a trend in the martial arts film world.

-   (On working overseas again) Anything goes! With the right project, right script I'll do it! But you can only make so many films a year; you have to choose the one that you want to make!

-   (On the difference of working as action director in Hong Kong and Hollywood) I think it's a difference between the way action is treated in Hong Kong and in Hollywood. In Hong Kong, my job is to "direct" the action, and when I'm shooting the fight sequences, I take over the set. I choose the camera angles and see how the drama intercuts with the action. In Hollywood, you "choreograph" working with the main director. In the old days of Hong Kong action cinema, when the action director worked, the "drama" director went home!

-   (On the action choreography of _Dou fo sin (2007)_ (qv)) The real challenge was in meeting my own expectations. I have such huge respect for MMA fighters, and I was determined that we should make every effort to present their art cinematically, without compromising on the techniques and "reality" of what they do. I underwent MMA training, I watched hours of fight footage and, in the end, I think we came close to capturing the MMA flavor in our fight scenes. The biggest challenge, for me was doing repeated takes of the movements that I choreographed for myself. Sometimes it really did feel like I'd been in a real fight!

-   (On the difference of working in Hong Kong and overseas) Two big differences: time and money! Actually, time, because you can give me all the money in the world and, if I don't have enough time, I can't give you a great action scene. The big difference in Asia is that the action director has complete control over that aspect of the film, from concept to shooting to editing. The Hollywood system is much more organized, and you have to deal with all these different producers etc. In some ways, that can be good. The development of scripts and the overall preparation for a film is definitely better in Hollywood. We have to try and bring the best from east and west together.

-   (2007) Continues to work very hard in Hong Kong as leading actor for various directors.

-   (2004) Starts collaborating with director 'Wilson Yip' (qv) on various film projects as leading actor and action director.

-   (2000) Starts working overseas as action director and small part actor on various film projects.

-   (1997) Starts working in front of and behind the camera on various film projects in Hong Kong.

-   (1994) Starts working on successful TV series in Hong Kong.

-   "The Hollywood Reporter" (France), 21 May 2006, Vol. cannes Edition, Iss. Day 5, pg. 25-28, by: Winnie Chung, "Kicking and Screening"

-   "The Washington Diplomat" (USA), November 2001, Vol. 7, Iss. 11, pg. B8, by: Ky N. Nguyen, "Kicking Up a Racket: Re-released 'Iron Monkey' Gives Donnie Yen Second Chance"

-   "International Herald Tribune" (USA), 1 April 2005, Iss. 37965, pg. 8, by: Alexandra A Seno, "Juggling Asian and Hollywood roles"

-   "Movieline" (USA), April 2002, Vol. 13, Iss. 6, pg. 20, by: Daniel Davis, "Hype: Donnie Yen"

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Ip Man Donnie Yen - Fusible
Ip Man Donnie Yen - Fusible
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We Love Flix Fix | Donnie Yen In Talks To Be In The Next

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A Tribute to the Greatness that is Donnie Yen: Part VII – Mr. Yen
Image - Donnie-yen 74313-1024x768.jpg - Creepypasta Wiki
Image - Donnie-yen 74313-1024x768.jpg - Creepypasta Wiki

Donnie Yen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Donnie Yen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Revenge of Donnie Yen | AsianWeek
The Revenge of Donnie Yen | AsianWeek

Sydrified Sports and Entertainment: Ip Man to Man
Sydrified Sports and Entertainment: Ip Man to Man
Asian American: Donnie Yen: The Next Martial Arts Icon Goldsea
Asian American: Donnie Yen: The Next Martial Arts Icon Goldsea

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Acting in movies

  1. Bing Fung Hup (2013)
  2. Chung Wah Sin San (2013)
  3. Da Nao Tian Gong (2013)
  4. Dut Shu Sun Fun (2013)
  5. Soi Yat Hei (2013)
  6. Baat seng bou hei (2012)
  7. Guan yun chang (2011)
  8. Ji keung hei si 2011 (2011)
  9. Wu xia (2011)
  10. Jin yi wei (2010)
  11. Jing wu feng yun: Chen Zhen (2010)
  12. Yip Man 2 (2010)
  13. "Asia Uncut with Jon Niermann" (2010) {(2010-02-07)}
  14. Ga yau hei si 2009 (2009)
  15. How Bruce Lee Changed the World (2009) (TV)
  16. Jian guo da ye (2009)
  17. Shi yue wei cheng (2009)
  18. Hua pi (2008)
  19. Jiang shan mei ren (2008)
  20. Yip Man (2008)
  21. Dou fo sin (2007)
  22. Lung Fu Moon (2006)
  23. Qi Jian (2005)
  24. Saat po long (2005)
  25. 'Hero' Defined: A Look at the Epic Masterpiece (2004) (V)
  26. Chin Kei Bin 2 - Fa Tou Tai Kam (2004)
  27. Luen Ching Go Gup (2004)
  28. Shanghai Knights (2003)
  29. Blade II (2002)
  30. The Blood Pact: The Making of 'Blade II' (2002) (V)
  31. Ying xiong (2002)
  32. Hong Kong Superstars (2001) (TV)
  33. Martial Arts: Kung Fu Fighter (2001) (TV)
  34. Highlander: Endgame (2000)
  35. Hei Se Cheng Shi (1999)
  36. Sat Sat Yan, Tiu Tiu Mo (1998)
  37. Sun Tong San Tai Hing (1998)
  38. Chin Long Chuen Suet (1997)
  39. Hak Moi Gwai Yee Git Gam Lan (1997)
  40. 666 Mo Gwai Fuk Wut (1996)
  41. Gaai tau saat sau (1996)
  42. Ah sau ging gat si gou aat sin (1995)
  43. Dou Sing 2 - Gai Tau Dou Sing (1995)
  44. "Jing wu men" (1995) {Chen's Revenge (#1.5)}
  45. "Jing wu men" (1995) {Deal Gone Wrong (#1.13)}
  46. "Jing wu men" (1995) {Death of a Sister (#1.4)}
  47. "Jing wu men" (1995) {The Beginning (#1.1)}
  48. "Jing wu men" (1995) {The Finale (#1.30)}
  49. "Jing wu men" (1995) {The Lion Dance (#1.2)}
  50. "Hung Hei Gun" (1994)
  51. Cinema of Vengeance (1994)
  52. Ma hei siu ji (1994)
  53. Wing Chun (1994)
  54. San lau sing woo dip gim (1993)
  55. Siu nin Wong Fei Hung ji: Tit Ma Lau (1993)
  56. So Hak-Yee (1993)
  57. Lip pau hang dung (1992)
  58. Sun lung moon hak chan (1992)
  59. Wong Fei Hung II - Nam yi dong ji keung (1992)
  60. Moh sun gip (1991)
  61. No foh wai lung (1991)
  62. Sai hak chin (1990)
  63. "Fei Fu Kwan Ying" (1989)
  64. "Mo Min Kap Sin Fung" (1989)
  65. Wong gaa si ze IV - Zik gik zing jan (1989)
  66. Dak ging to lung (1988)
  67. Ying ging boon sik (1988) (TV)
  68. Ching fung dik sau (1985)
  69. Siu taai gik (1984)

Composed music

  1. Wing Chun (1994) (uncredited)