One would assume that any actor who can pull off a flying kick, would jump at the chance of portraying a martial arts fighter in a “Star Wars” blockbuster. But not Donnie Yen.
The Chinese actor initially wanted to turned down the opportunity of playing Chirrut Îmwe in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” for 2 main reasons: spending time away from his family and his reluctancy to accept an Asian role that is aim to attract the large Chinese market.
“I was flattered but at the same time I didn’t want to leave my family for 5 months to go to London, because I just got off another movie. I turned to my children and I said, “Do you like baba’s ‘Ip Man’ series?” — because I’m known to Western audiences for ‘Ip Man.’ “Or do you want baba to be in ‘Star Wars’?” They went, “‘Star Wars,’ of course!” said Yen.
Another reservation that the “Ip Man” actor had was the nature of nature because he didn’t want to play a “meaningless” token Asian character that is used to attract Chinese movie goers to the cinema.
“When the director (Gareth Edwards) approached me, I began by asking, quite frankly, if it’s a real character, or if he’s only casting me based on commercial considerations for the (Chinese) market. Because originally I thought, ‘Oh, they just want me to kick some Stormtrooper’s butt’. Then when I started reading the script, I realised that I get to say the coolest lines. Chirrut is not a Jedi but he has all the lines of “Star Wars” metaphor,” shared the actor.
While Chirrut did not wield a lightsaber, his wooden staff and slick moves were more than enough to the army of storm troopers. Yen, who choreographed and performed most of his stunt performances, also revealed that it was his idea to make his character blind.
“How Chirrut ended up being blind was a collaboration of me and Gareth. During the process, we were talking about different possibilities and he was asking my opinions. I said, “I want this character not to be so clichéd. I’ve played this character thousands of times — this type of bad-ass, skillful warrior hero. I want him to be grounded. I want him to be human, even vulnerable. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have him blind?”” the 53-year-old Hong Kong star said.
After seeing Yen’s badass performance as the blind Jedi master, it’s such a relief that he didn’t end up rejecting the role. Frankly speaking, we can’t see anyone else embodying the character as well as Yen did.
In the meantime, feel free to check out our “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” movie review here.