Donnie Yen looks back on major moments of his career, including his intense memories of shooting fight scenes with Mike Tyson in Ip Man 3.
While at the Shanghai International Film Festival, Donnie Yen recalled his experience filming Ip Man 3 with Mike Tyson, describing the real danger he felt filming fight scenes together. One of the reasons Yen attended this year’s SIFF was to speak on the top moments of his career in a masterclass. The actor is known specifically for bringing mixed martial arts, also known as MMA, into mainstream Asian filmmaking that incorporates impressive choreography.
Yen returns to the title role in Ip Man 3. The 2015 film follows Master Ip, as he is forced to stand against a group of criminals led by a twisted property developer (Tyson) looking to claim a school. The biographical action drama shot in Shanghai with a $157 million global intake on a reported budget of $36 million. While there are dramatic notes in the Ip Man franchise, the choreographed fight sequences are impressive, although viewers rarely get a glimpse into what capturing these scenes takes.
THR reported that filming with Tyson was an intimidating experience for Yen. Despite the fact that he is a fan of Tyson’s boxing career, Yen recognized that he is a boxer, rather than an actor. He felt that there was no room to let his guard down, saying “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,” said Yen. He added, “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.”
Most recently, Yen starred in Mulan as Commander Tung and was announced to be included in Chad Stahelski’s John Wick: Chapter 4 with Keanu Reeves. He came from a martial arts lineage, as he started learning from a young age from his mother, who is a famed tai chi master. Ever since accepting roles in mainstream Hollywood movies, he has seen it as an opportunity to display positive, non-stereotypical Chinese representation.
Yen is one of the most instantly recognizable names when it comes to mixed martial arts in cinema. He has an impressive filmography with many memorable fight scenes. However, given Tyson’s boxing career, it is not surprising that Yen would find filming a fight scene with Tyson to be a bit intimidating, given that acting and real fighting would require him to tap into different a skillset. Audiences are always excited to see well-recognized fighters facing each other in a movie that features strong choreography work. Ip Man 3 is not the strongest entry in the franchise, although it does include exciting fight sequences that viewers have come to expect. With films like Raging Fire and John Wick Chapter 4 on the way, it will not be long before Yen can be seen on the big screen again.