Rising star Donnie Yen has been hailed as the fresh new face of martial arts. A long-time collaborator with Yuen Woo Ping, the Academy Award&Mac226; winning choreographer of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ (2000), Yen’s martial arts performances are well-known for exhibiting an extremely high degree of complex skills.
Born in the Chinese province of Canton, Yen moved to Hong Kong at the age of two. He lived there until aged eleven and subsequently moved with his family to Boston, USA. He spent his early teenage years in New England, where his mother, a world famous Tai Chi master ran an internationally renowned martial arts studio and trained her son in the arts almost as soon as he could walk.
In his teens, Yen spent two years in Beijing training with the famed Beijing Martial Arts Team, studying under the same master as Jet Li. En route back to the U.S, Yen made a side trip to Hong Kong where he met Yuen Woo Ping, the action choreographer for action extravaganzas ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’. Yuen, who launched the career of Jackie Chan in ‘Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow’ (1978) and ‘Drunken Master’ (1978), was looking for a new kung fu star. At once, Yuen was impressed by Donnie Yen’s extraordinary physical abilities and the two talents have collaborated on numerous projects including ‘Drunken Tai Chi’ (1984), ‘Tiger Cage’ (1988), ‘Once Upon a Time in China II’ (1992) and ‘Iron Monkey’ (1993).
Yen’s career has since flourished, starring opposite such esteemed martial arts stars as Jet Li (‘Once Upon a Time in China II’, 1992) and Michelle Yeoh (‘Butterfly And Sword’, 1993). Not content with simply appearing on screen, Yen is also an accomplished fight choreographer, credited in films including ‘Blade II’ (2002) and ‘Highlander : Endgame’ (2000). Yen has also turned to television to develop his directing skills. He starred in and directed the action for one of Hong Kong’s all time top rated shows ‘Fist of Fury’ (1995) a 30-part mini-series based on the classic Bruce Lee movie. Yen made his directing debut with ‘Legend of the Wolf’ (1997), followed shortly by ‘Ballistic Kiss’ (1998). ‘Ballistic Kiss’ earned Donnie Yen the Best Young Director Award at the Yubari Film Festival in Japan and was selected as one of the Best Films of 1998 by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society.
Branching out internationally, Donnie Yen has action-directed and starred in ‘The Princess Blade’ (2001), a contemporary sword film based on the Japanese Manga character, Shurayuki Hime. Yen also became the first Chinese film maker to be in creative control of a major German TV production, co-directing and action choreographing one of Germany’s highest rated shows, ‘Codename: Puma’ (1999, 2000).
Currently toast of the town with the US re-release of ‘Iron Monkey’ (2001), Donnie Yen was included in GQ Magazine’s list of the Hottest Action Stars, and was voted one of the Hottest People on the Planet by In Gear Magazine in January 2002.
He will next star opposite Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in ‘Shanghai Knights’, the sequel to the smash-hit comedy, ‘Shanghai Noon’ (2000).