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Chinese movie star Yen expresses his pride over nation's amazing progress

By ZOU SHUO | China Daily | Updated: 2023-03-06 07:18
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Donnie Yen talks with fellow members in the cultural sector of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference during a panel discussion on Sunday in Beijing. [Photo by Jiang Dong /China Daily]

Renowned Chinese movie star Donnie Yen has spoken of just how proud he is to be Chinese and feels amazed at the progress his home country has made.

Yen, a member of the 14th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said: "Most of the people outside of China don't see it until they are there. The progress — the freeways, the architecture, the convenience of lifestyle."

He made the remarks in a recent interview with British GQ magazine, adding the modernization of other countries he has been to is not even close to China.

However, Yen told the magazine that he is upset that the Western media focuses only on the negative stories about China.

"The BBC, CNN, they never talk about that. They never mention the true side of it," he said.

Yen went on to say the 2019 protest in Hong Kong was actually a riot.

"A lot of people might not be happy with what I'm saying, but I'm speaking from my own experience."

He recalled when he moved to Boston with his father and the difficulties of adapting to life in the United States as new immigrants when he was 10.

"Today we talk about injustice, back in the days, you can't imagine. It was horrendous," he said.

Throughout his career, Hollywood has never quite known what to do with him or with any Asian leading men, he said, adding that he found his opportunities limited.

While in China, he can play drug lords, animated monkeys, romantic leads and soldiers, but in Hollywood, he had to settle for the same handful of tired old stereotypes: the sage warrior, the stern general and the one-dimensional villain, he said.

Yen said he had to suggest making his character blind and giving him a sense of humor when he was approached by Disney to appear in the 2016 Star Wars prequel Rogue One to avoid making it another cliche.

In addition, while making John Wick: Chapter 4, his character was originally named Shang or Chang, a generic name for Asian actors and he was supposed to wear mandarin collars. It was due to his influence that the director agreed to change the name and wardrobe, he said.

Yen said he is more selective with the Hollywood movies that he takes on and he will ask if the role is generic or respectful of Chinese culture before taking a role.

While he was hungrier to prove himself at a younger age, he is no longer overexcited by offers from Hollywood and turns down roles if he is not allowed creative control, he said.

Yen said he was energized to see Michelle Yeoh win a Golden Globe for Everything Everywhere All at Once this year and believes there will always be more people like Yeoh.

He is also upbeat because he sees a "big difference" in the way he and other Asian actors are treated in Hollywood.

One of the great things about cinema is it is unifying, transcending barriers of language and culture. "Action movies are a genre that everybody in the world can appreciate," he added.

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