Donnie Yen wants more three-dimensional Asian characters in Hollywood, saying that it’s time to move on from stereotypical martial arts roles.
The actor, best known for starring in the Ip Man film trilogy, recently talked about Chirrut Îmwe, his warrior-monk character in Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
“When I took on the role in Rogue One, I felt it was important for me to take a step forward, to develop it so that it would be less clichéd,” Yen revealed. “I know they wanted Donnie Yen because he’s Ip Man. They wanted Ip Man in Rogue One. I get it. But I don’t want to portray another stereotypical Chinese martial-arts man.”
Yen said he worked with producers to add some layers and context to the character. In the end, however, he feels the character still fell short.
“Even after all of that, Îmwe still came out a cliché,” he said. “But if you think he’s a cliché on screen, you should’ve seen the original script they offered me. It was why I was initially hesitant to take on the role. But I understand why. They can’t have an overhaul overnight. There’s a large audience that has never watched Asians in films before, so it takes time for them to process an Asian actor.”
Often, in Hollywood movies, Asian actors are cast in small roles with little significance to the overall story in an effort to appeal to international Asian audiences ― a practice known as white-washing.
“They need to learn from their mistakes,” said the actor. “Look at all these actors and actresses that now say no. It proves it doesn’t work. You can’t just put an Asian actor in there and expect that, because they show up for a second, you’ve covered the Asian market. That is a joke.”
Damn straight g.
In other news, Donnie Yen also starred alongside Alibaba CEO Jack Ma in Gong Shou Dao which translates to “The Art of Attack and Defence”. The movie was released on Singles Day, 11 November 2017.