Donnie Yen describes “horrible time” working on Blade II and turning down Aquaman and Expendables

The martial arts legend is about to bring the action in John Wick Chapter 4, but it’s been a bumpy road crossing over to American films.

Last Updated on March 17, 2023

donnie yen john wick 4

Donnie Yen is one of the last great martial arts legends still doing his thing. Jackie Chan is currently exploring different types of projects, with a new comedy involving a horse and voicing Splinter in the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie Mutant Mayhem, and Jet Li is pretty much retired due to his health issues. However, Donnie is the one of the three who hasn’t truly headlined a film in the American market.

Perhaps this is due to Yen’s mixed experiences working on American films early in his career. As he explained to GQ, “when I did Blade II I had a horrible time, man. Really one of the worst times in my career. Guillermo was a total gentleman. He’s totally cool, and he loves martial arts movies. But the producer walked by me, and wouldn’t even talk to me.” Donnie would work on the film as an actor and choreographer but wasn’t given ample time to design action scenes to his satisfaction. “The producer would come in and say, ‘That’s it. Half a day, a couple of hours.’ A couple of hours? In Hong Kong, I spent two weeks shooting this stuff! I think it’s a lack of respect and a level of not understanding, not appreciating what we do.”

Donnie had been brought on by Del Toro to choreograph the fight scenes. However, film studios would constantly tell him to wrap it up and move on. The martial arts star has glowed about his time working on John Wick Chapter 4, after doing some tweaking to his character. However, he has not been swayed by very many projects offered to him by studios, “These kinds of opportunities occasionally come up: ‘You want to be in this?’ It doesn’t mean anything. If I’m not allowed to have my creative control, it’s not worth my time.” While Yen has appeared in such films as Rogue One and XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, he reveals he turned down a role in The Expendables franchise as well as Aquaman from DC films — the latter so he could spend time with his family.

The team behind John Wick Chapter 4 are professed fans of Hong Kong martial arts films and are composed of many stunt performers, so this film may finally have Donnie let loose in a way he hasn’t been able to in American films.

Source: GQ

About the Author

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E.J. is a News Editor at JoBlo, as well as a Video Editor, Writer, and Narrator for some of the movie retrospectives on our JoBlo Originals YouTube channel, including Reel Action, Revisited and some of the Top 10 lists. He is a graduate of the film program at Missouri Western State University with concentrations in performance, writing, editing and directing.