Donnie Yen is a Legend. He may not be mainstream in America but in Asia he is THE Donnie Yen. That being said as Chirrut in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story I believe the name Donnie Yen will become Synonymous with Amazing in Mainstream America. Before I went into this interview I’m not going to lie, I really had no idea who he was, but after receiving an excited text from my friend who’s husband had found out I would interviewing him I realized the magnitude of Donnie Yen’s Skills. Donnie Yen is considered the “It” actor in Hong Kong and just happens to be an amazing Martial Arts Action Star. Although we only got to see 28 minutes of footage during our Rogue One Press event we were able to see just how amazing his skills are. That being said,during the interview we learned more about the acting potential of this great actor.
Because we had only seen a small amount of footage for the film our first question was Can you tell us about our character.
“Chirrut, is blind but he’s spiritual.He’s the spiritual center of the team. He’s the Force believer. He preaches this and he’s got a little bit of a sense humor. Yeah, and he beats up all the Storm Troopers.”
So Chirrut wasn’t originally blind but you changed it?
“I don’t want to take any credit if it’s gonna perceive it as a contribution. I think it’s the collaboration of both. That’s the nature of being an artist. You express take on your character. So in the beginning when I was discussing about my character with Gareth and I just felt it would be so much cooler to make him less of a cliché character, like, warrior monk, you know.How about give him a little bit of vulnerability,How about being blind? And a little bit of a sense of humor? That was always been my persistence of keeping him grounded, having that sense of humor so the audience can relate to him a lot more. So, I suggested it and he’s cool with it and Disney loved it and here we are.”
So earlier I mentioned how one of our good friends was really excited when he found out about me interviewing Donnie and right away sent me a question, well it was a good one- You have an amazing fan that love seeing how you stretch yourself to the limits with your martial arts. Do you set a ceiling as to what you’re gonna do in movies or do you just go with it and just do it….
“That’s a funny question,I’ve been in business for quite a while about 70 movies. And I have different set of fans. I have straight action fans and Donnie Yen fans. But without realizing the changes of every film in the past decade of my films. It wasn’t so much of what I’m gonna do with my body each time, but different character that I, I try to take on. I’ve done many movies besides action movie, I’ve done comedies, romantic, all kinds. I played a monkey king where I insisted not having my face recognized. I just wanted to take challenges as an actor. I don’t look at myself as this guy who does really good in the action field. But I wanted to be perceived as a good actor and striving to be a better actor each time. I never played a blind person before. That was another reason why I wanted to do something completely different, challenging. It was really challenging and I underestimated the difficulty of playing a blind character because it was hard. Having those contact lenses was hard, I mean, it looks interesting, but having to take them off every three hours and let my eyes rest because it irritates your eyes and every ten minutes I needed drops. They bothered me and were very irritating.”
” And you can’t really see. You think their contact lenses therefore they’ll probably be ok,but, everything was blurry. Somehow they couldn’t manage with technology today, they still were not able to manage to make a blue pair of contact lenses and having that specific look and giving the full clarity for my sight. So I was having difficulty , measuring the distance, uh, as well as, uh, uh..What was more difficult wasn’t even about the seeing clearly. It was more as an actor I couldn’t look at my fellow actors in their eyes and I couldn’t get to all reactions. When I’m talking I have to look at a point. And that was very, very frustrating, frustrating, because I didn’t wanna look, uh, without the complexity of the, each line and the emotion. So I was trying to find, um, fine-tuning my acting, every single day. So it was quite frustrating especially, it was kind of like you, you feel like you’re not in control,of yourself, where you’re supposed to have all these years of experience being an actor. So that was quite difficult.”
Because Chirrut was blind Donnie felt that it helped his character be close to the force.
“benefits were given because of the fact that he’s blind, he has to feel and use his heart .So beside him being the spiritual center but being this blind person, he has to feel the Force.”
So what if we gave Donnie a Light Saber what would happen?
It’s funny when my fans found out that I was gonna be in this movie, everybody thought I’m gonna be a Jedi and have a lightsaber and go against Darth Vader. But it eats me up. I couldn’t really say anything so I couldn’t tell anyone that there would be no Jedi the movie. I don’t know If they give me a, a lightsaber I don’t think anyone else after thisRogue One and a future Star War is gonna have a hard time if they let me swing it. Maybe that’s why they don’t want to give me a lightsaber because then you know, you won’t have the story because you just center it to go against Darth Vader and take on the Empire with a lightsaber.
The other cast members have talked about how physically grueling this was. Because you have such a background in martial arts , did you feel there was a difference in what you do every day? Or did you change anything? Or did you just do you?
“I just do it. To me it’s like a musicians, you know? You play music all your life and it’s just jump in there. As a actor who specialize in physical expressions for me it was just another dive in…”
Although Donnie is an Action Movie Super star he didn’t feel the need to give pointers or interrupt the natural process of filming
“ I didn’t want to overwhelm them with, “Oh, this is what you need to do,because you can get really technical with these type of, uh, specific, uh, uh, knowledge, right? general kind of directions like certain things to, especially with, uh, safety and, you know, some pointers here and there. But I didn’t want to interrupt anybody from, from them crafting their own character.
Donnie really wasn’t sure about being a part of this movie. He had just finished a movie in London for 5 months and didn’t want to leave his family again. So when he told his kids that this opportunity had presented itself they really didn’t leave him much of a choice but to accept.
“I said, “Do you want Baba home? Or do you want Baba to be in Star War?” Without a doubt they said, “Star War!” “You gotta be in Star War! You gotta be in Star War!” I realized that, I realized I’m making history here, you know? So I’m so glad.”
And I’m glad too because it was such an amazing treat to see him on film as Chirrut. I can’t wait to see all the action he brings to the film and most important what contribution Chirrut will be to the rebels.
Ready for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hitting theaters this Friday? Here’s a fantastic Featurette to get you all sorts of excited!
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All Pictures Courtesy of Lucas Films/Disney and Momstart