Donnie Yen at New York Asian Film Festival 2012

By Jim Ng

Donnie Yen was recently in New York to attend the annual New York Asian Film Festival as a featured guest and recipient of the festival’s Star Asia Award. Yen sat down for a special interview with Asian In NY and was also on hand at each of his movie screenings (Dragon, Kill Zone, and The Lost Bladesman) to talk about his life and career, share behind the scenes stories, and answer questions from the audience.

During our interview, Yen spoke about learning martial arts from his mother and traveling to China to train with the Beijing Wushu team. It was during a side trip to Hong Kong that Yen met famed action choreographer, Yuen Woo Ping. The encounter proved to be pivotal and led to starring roles in a number of Hong Kong action films. His career path brought him to Germany, Japan, and the United States for work before he eventually returned to Hong Kong.

Yen underscored Kill Zone as a turning point in his career. The film paired him with director Wilson Yip and together, they went on to collaborate on Flashpoint and Ip Man. He credits the international success of the Ip Man series for opening doors in his career and just recently finished filming Monkey King, his biggest budget project to date.

While reflecting on his experiences, Yen stated that he wants to “set a good example of what a martial arts actor can become” and focus more on strong acting and character development in his roles rather than just martial arts. However, his action fans need not worry, as Yen is not showing any intention of leaving the genre. Remarkably, Yen has completed eleven action films in just five years. “It’s what I do best”, he said.

In the future, Yen will not only be a lead actor but will also a produce his own projects through his production company Bullet Films, which he initially formed while directing Legend of the Wolf and Ballistic Kiss in the late 1990s.

Dragon’s official North American release will be in October 2012.

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