Additional Photos: Shaw Organisation, PBE Media
Hong Kong actor-director Donnie Yen is synonymous with the term martial arts star, with multiple kungfu flicks under his very impressive filmography. This was even more so after the first Ip Man movie was released in 2008. The franchise has done so well that Ip Man will be releasing its fourth and final installment this month.
At the movie’s press conference in Beijing last month, the 56-year-old shared that he will be retiring from kungfu films after Ip Man 4: The Finale – an announcement that took many by surprise. Would he be retiring from action flicks altogether? What was his reason for doing so? There were many questions on netizens’ minds, and we got the chance to ask Donnie himself when he was in Singapore for the film’s gala premier at Shaw Theatres Lido yesterday (December 10).
“Some people misunderstood that I’m not going to do action movies any more. That’s not true,” he laughed. “I decided that I won’t do any more kungfu movies and focus on other aspects, like contemporary action films instead.”
These, he explained, include movies like the James Bond series. Donnie explained that his decision to stop making kungfu films is because he feels that he has already succeeded in sparking an interest in martial arts, in particular Wing Chun Kuen, after filming Ip Man.
Donnie, who is well-known for his attention to detail, emphasised that he has filmed all his movies as realistically as he could. He mused, “Cinema-goers are very sophisticated. They know what is real and what is not. Even with how advanced technology and post-production effects are, they know when you’re using CGI (computer-generated imagery) or using wires, rather than actually doing the kung fu scenes.”
This is why he insists on providing the most authentic experience for those who watch his movies. With his retirement from kung fu films, he shrugged that this spirit might not be passed on, however, he isn’t worried about it in the least as he feels that there will always be someone who is dedicated and passionate enough about the craft in the business.
When asked to name younger stars he thinks have the potential to take his place as the king of kung fu movies, he paused to think for a moment before naming his Raging Fire co-star Nicholas Tse. The pair filmed the thriller movie together earlier this year.
“He definitely has the martial arts skills that are necessary to be a kung fu star,” Donnie shared. “But at the end of the day, it depends on his interest and whether he has the passion to pursue this path.” He added with a smile that Chinese actor Wang Baoqiang, or other unpolished diamonds whom he has yet to discover, could very well step up as well.
With his ever-growing involvement in Hollywood – among some of the movies that Donnie filmed recently is the live-action adaptation of Mulan – he also hopes that there will come a day when Asians get more meaningful roles in Hollywood.
“There are some instances where people cast an Asian in a token role – like a chauffeur, or the guy who’s funny and there for comic relief. Things have definitely gotten a lot better over the years, but I believe that the ratio and number of Asians in Hollywood are still not ideal,” he remarked. Adding that he doesn’t necessarily equate meaningful roles to lead roles – rather, a meaningful role is one where the character serves purpose and has a real story behind him or her, he mused that he hopes that there will be a day where ethnicity is not a factor when it comes to casting.
Ip Man 4: The Finale opens on Dec 20, with sneaks on Dec 19. Tickets will go on sale from Thursday, 10am.