Imagine playing a blind warrior monk in the new Rogue One Star Wars movie. Not only do you have to be able to fight but you have to do it without seeing your enemies. Today we are sharing our Donnie Yen interview for Rogue One A Star Wars Story. This is exactly what Donnie had to do for his new roll in Rogue One.
I had the chance to interview Mr. Yen during the #RogueOneEvent in San Francisco. Prior to the interview, I read as much as I could about each character and the actors playing them. I love that Donnie learned tai chi from his Mom Bow Sim Mark. She is a tai chi master with a school in Boston. When he was a little kid his mom would drag him out of bed to train with her. Those skills came in handy with the new Star Wars movie.
Can you tell us about your character?
Chirrut, he’s blind but, he’s spiritual. Kathy Kennedy described it. He’s the spiritual center of the team. He’s the Force believer. He preaches this and he got a little bit of a sense of humor. Yeah, and he beats up all the Storm Troopers.
I read that you changed your character. He originally wasn’t blind but you changed it?
I don’t want to take any credit if it’s gonna perceive as something more than a contribution. I think it’s the collaboration of both. That’s the nature of being an artist. You express your takes on your character. So in the beginning when I was discussing my character with Gareth I just felt it would be so much cooler to make him less of a cliché character, like a warrior monk.
How serious is that, right? How about give him a little bit of vulnerability, you know, like disabledness. How about being blind? And a little bit sense of humor? That was always been my persistence of keeping him grounded, having that sense of humor so the audience can relate to him a lot more. So, I suggested it and he’s cool with it and Disney loved it and here we are.
How much of the story had to be changed to accommodate a blind, your blind character?
How much of the story? I don’t think much. I mean, that was months before we actually, before I was on the set, started filming. So I think that’s just part, goes with anything about filmmaking. You make adjustments on a day-to-day basis, even with the lines.
We revise it and obviously we need approval by, by the studio, especially with, dealing with the biggest I.P. in the film industry, Star War. There’s a lot of responsibility on our hands. But we do get that kind of freedom to shape the character along the process.
The other cast members have talked about how physically grueling this was. Because you have such a background in martial arts and everything, did you feel there was a difference in what you do every day? Or did you change anything? Or did you just do you?
I just do it. To me it’s like a musicians, you know? You play music all your life. I actually play music myself. I play piano. As an actor who specialize in physical expressions, for me it was just another day, just dive in…
Did you give anybody pointers on what to do?
Not so much! I recall I gave Felicity pointers here and there, but I didn’t want to interrupt what they were doing. I didn’t want to overwhelm them, bombard them with, “Oh, this is what you need to do,” because you can get really technical with these type of knowledge, right? General kind of directions like certain things to, especially with, safety and some pointers here and there. But I didn’t want to interrupt anybody from them crafting their own character.
How did you came to be part of Star Wars Rogue One?
My agent called me and they said, “Disney want you to be in Star War.” And then Gareth called and I was hoping for an answer and I got it. I just want you to kick some Stormtroopers ass.
He really felt, I have the persona of portraying this character in his mind and that was the answer I was looking for as an actor. But, I know it sounds crazy, but in the very beginning, I was hesitant of coming on board. I know “Star War,” I mean, I didn’t want to leave my family, my kids and be in London for five months. I just got off from another movie and I live in Hong Kong.
And I said, “I don’t know.” Then I went to my kids, Jasmine and James. They were 12 at the time maybe 11 and 7, 12 and 8. I said, “Do you want me to stay home, Cause I’m kind of known to make a lot of audiences and fans as the man, I.P. man. Or do you want Baba to be in Star War?” Without a doubt, they said, “Star War!” And then all the family members and friends and all the fan voices came out of nowhere and say, “Oh!” They found out about it and said, “You gotta be in Star War! You gotta be in Star War!” I realized I’m making history here, you know? So I’m so glad.
Check out this extended look at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY follows a group of unlikely heroes in a time of conflict who band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, with Jiang Wen and Forest Whitaker. Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur and Simon Emanuel are producing, with John Knoll and Jason McGatlin serving as executive producers. The story is by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, and the screenplay is by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theaters everywhere on December 16th in 3D, Real D 3D and IMAX 3D!
Follow STAR WARS on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/starwars
Visit the official ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY website: http://www.starwars.com/films/rogue-one
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY arrives in theaters everywhere on December 16th In RealD 3D and IMAX 3D!
I was a guest of Disney for the #RogueOneEvent. All opinions expressed are my own.