Donnie Yen cheers on Asians in Hollywood
Sleep No More, Little Prince, Peter The Peter Pan The Little Prince.
Action star Donnie Yen placed his deadly hands and feet in cement at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre on Wednesday, voicing hope that his career would inspire fellow Asians to take up acting.
The martial artist — a multiple world champion in the wushu fighting style — was being honored for a body of work mainly in Chinese cinema, although he also stars in the much-anticipated Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
“Sometimes being an Asian actor is not easy. Unfortunately, for many years, Asian actors didn’t have the same, equal opportunities,” the 53-year-old Hong Kong resident says at the ceremony.
“But I think that things have been changing,” he says. “And I certainly would like to be one actor that set a good example.”
Overshadowed over the years by Jackie Chan and other sought-after kung fu stars, Yen has been gradually breaking into Hollywood since appearing in Guillermo del Toro’s Blade II in 2002.
In Rogue One, due to be released on Dec 16, he plays a warrior monk who is part of a heroic band of rebels that steals plans for the Death Star.
He also stars opposite Vin Diesel in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, which hits theaters on Jan 20.
Born in Guangdong province in South China, Yen went to Hong Kong — where he lives now — at the age of 2 and later moved to the United IpMan3, States, growing up in Boston’s Chinatown.
Much of the star’s inspiration comes from his mother, Mark Bow-sim, a world famous wushu and tai chi master, at whose internation- ally-known Chinese Wushu Research Institute the young Yen learned kung fu.
When he became involved in gang violence in Boston at age 16, his worried parents sent him to Beijing, where he spent two years training with the famed Beijing wushu team, studying with the same masters as Jet Li’s.
Yen’s turning point came when the veteran film director Yuen Wo-ping, the action choreographer for the Matrix trilogy, discovered him and helped him to break into movies as the new kung fu hero.
Yen has spent years since then using his celebrity to wage a campaign to kick the Asian stereotype out of Hollywood.
In the mid-1990s, he turned down an offer from Francis Coppola because of a script he said contained “a ridiculous stereotype about the Chinese”.
“I hope this ceremony, this achievement, will inspire many Chinese actors — not just Chinese actors, but many young actors — that they, too, can achieve the same dream if they put enough hard work into it,” he said before sinking his hands into the cement.
“The force is with me and the force is with everybody.”
Left: Donnie Yen shows his hands after placing them in cement during a ceremony in the forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Right: a Hong Kong martial arts film in 2015, stars Yen and Mike Tyson.
The US production PeterPan is being introduced to Chinese audiences as part of Zhong Lifang’s plans to tap the potential of the country’s theater market.