Donnie Yen Talks Mike Tyson’s Death Punch and Defying Chinese Stereotypes in Movies

Donnie Yen recently appeared at the Shanghai International Film Festival masterclass and reminisced about his long and illustrious career. Donnie Yen also served as the ambassador for the festival’s “Belt and Road Film Week” sidebar and showcased his latest film Raging Fire. The film is directed by Benny Chan, who unfortunately passed away last August after a bout with nasopharyngeal cancer. While in the masterclass, Yen recalled the real danger he felt while filming Ip Man 3 with former heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson.

The two of them starred together in the third film of the famous Ip Man franchise in 2016, with Yen reprising his role as the Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man. Tyson played a corrupt property developer who takes an interest in the school of Ip Man’s son. Being a fan of Tyson himself and taking note of his reputation, Yen had to be very careful while filming fight scenes with him on the set of Ip Man 3.

RELATED: IP Man 4 Boycotted by Hong Kong Protestors

Here is what Yen said about dancing in the ring with Mike Tyson, “When I was in a scene with him, I had to remind myself that I have to be very cautious. I daren’t allow myself to think I was shooting a scene for a film. I had to treat it as a real fight in a boxing ring with him and it was a matter of life and death. I couldn’t afford to be distracted in any way, otherwise it wouldn’t have been a K.O., it would have cost me my life.”

It looks like Yen was literally afraid for his life. Well, he had every reason to be. Tyson was a knockout artist back in the days with a finish rate of 88%. Yen himself is a lifelong martial arts practitioner known for his lightning-fast strikes. But martial arts can be unpredictable. One mistake, and boom! You lose consciousness. Mike used to break his opponents even before stepping into the ring with his ferocious persona. Those who didn’t buckle would be quickly put to sleep with Tyson’s fists. Even in his 50s, Mike is a man to be reckoned with, having recently boxed fellow Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr.

Yen also recalled trying to dodge Tyson’s punch at the last moment just for the camera’s sake. “That was so dangerous! I literally felt the air move with his punch, which was like a truck coming towards me head-on. I felt that wind – woah, that’s still so clear in my mind, so dangerous! His fist was so huge, and it touched my hair. I had to wait until the last moment to crouch down and at the same time not let myself be hurt. For me, that was the biggest pressure.”

As big of a star as he is in the East, Yen is no stranger to Hollywood either, having starred in blockbusters like Mulan and XXX: Return of Xander Cage. He was a scene-stealer in the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One. At Shanghai International Film Festival, Yen also gave his opinion on representation in Hollywood. He said, “I’d always ask the producer whether the role I’m supposed to take and the content of the film as a whole is respectful of Chinese people and Chinese culture. That’s something I’ve always done. Now that I have more influence, I must speak up for my country and speak out when I think something is not right. I also have a very important mission, which is to use my influence to show the audience that Chinese are not a stereotype. Whatever you can do, we can do it, too.”

On that note, Yen has been tapped to star alongside Keanu Reeves in John Wick 4. The film is proving to be quite diverse with Hiroyuki Sanada recently joining the line-up. John Wick 3: Parabellum too featured Asian actors in prominent roles.

In the film, Yen will be playing a close friend of Reeves’s John Wick. It will be a blast watching these two side-by-side, killing some bad guys. John wick 4 comes out next summer, May 27, 2022. This news was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

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