Interviews

Donnie Yen says Maasai tribe was partly his inspiration to do "Ip Man 4"

Writer: Florey DM

Donnie Yen poses with a wooden dummy after signing it.
Donnie Yen poses with a wooden dummy after signing it.

In 2008, Donnie Yen took the world by storm with his highly praised portrayal of the titular kung fu master in "Ip Man", a martial arts movie based on the real-life Wing Chun grandmaster. The success of the movie gave birth to the Donnie Yen-fronted "Ip Man" franchise, which spawned three sequels starring the actor and one spinoff produced by him, 2018's "Master Z: Ip Man Legacy".

Fans would notice that there was only a two-year gap between the first and second movies, but about five years between the second and the third. This was because there had not been real plans for more "Ip Man" movies after the 2010 release but a third movie materialised in 2015 due to director Wilson Yip's keenness on making a movie focusing on Ip Man and his most famous disciple, Bruce Lee.

Donnie stated back then that "Ip Man 3" was to be his final time reprising the title role, though added that he would consider a fourth movie if the team could come up with a new angle.


It seems that they succeeded there because Donnie's back on the big screen for his real final reprisal of the kung fu master.

Donnie, along with co-star Danny Chan who portrayed Bruce Lee since "Ip Man 3", producer Raymond Wong who's produced all instalments in the franchise and screenwriter Edmond Wong who wrote all four "Ip Man" movies, were in Malaysia last week to promote the fourth and final movie.

Cinema Online had a chance to speak to the stars, here's what they have to say about "Ip Man 4: The Finale":


L-R: Raymond Wong, Donnie Yen, Danny Chan and Edmond Wong at the press conference
held prior to the interviews during "Ip Man 4" promo tour in Kuala Lumpur.

Cinema Online: You previously said that "Ip Man 3" was your final "Ip Man" movie, what made you decide to do "Ip Man 4"?

Donnie: You know, at the time I actually thought that was the last one. I'm not only saying this. It was every one of my intention that the last time, the last episode, we wanted to make a stop to it. But then, I travelled around, making other films, Mr. Wong went to produce other films and Wilson Yip went on to direct other films. But then, there were so many fans in the world that were asking, "Can you guys make another one?"

And everywhere I went, there were so many fans, from all walks of life, different ways, different countries. I'm talking about not only in the film industry. For example, last year I went to Kenya in Africa. I went to a little village. The Maasai tribe, they don't have any television and they only watch DVDs. And when I met them, [they went] "I.P. Man! I.P. Man!"

Feedback like this from fans gave me inspiration. So, we decided to do it one last time but only if Wilson Yip came up with an idea, a storyline, to conclude the very last episode.

You've played Ip Man four times now, did you make any changes in your portrayal of him for this final movie?

Donnie: I don't think anyone wants me to change the way...everyone loves this character since day one. In other words, I didn't make it different. The difference is in the story, it's in the issues he faces and how he solves the issues. I think the audience fell in love with this character since the very first one because of who he is and how he is. Through the course of years of following this journey, everyone kinda grew older with the story. There's a lot of feelings and emotions we all invested into this character.

How about you, Danny, how was it like playing Bruce Lee?

Danny: For me, it's kind of great as a Bruce Lee fan I can act as Bruce Lee. I felt really happy and excited. I really want, if I can, I'll always keep acting as Bruce Lee until I'm 90. [Laughs]. Bruce Lee is too famous. As I play Bruce Lee, some people would challenge me, some would say I'm very good. The movie gave me confidence [in playing him], however.


Danny Chan demonstrating the kung fu skills that earned him his Bruce Lee role.

Donnie, was it tough fighting Scott Adkins? Or was there someone else you were hoping to fight?

Donnie: Scott? For me, I fought so many people. I've been in the film industry for 37 years and I've fought Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Jacky Wu, Mike Tyson. Actually, there's one person I wanted to fight: Bruce Lee, which is Danny. I think it'd be interesting to fight...to me it's not the difficulty of fighting the character or the actor. For me, it's how refreshing, how challenging. Not so much, 'oh the most powerful opponent'. So I think encountering his student Bruce Lee, I think that could be refreshing but unfortunately, that didn't happen. Edmond Wong didn't put it in the script.

People are still talking about you supposedly quitting action movies after "Ip Man 4", would you like to comment on this?

Donnie: I wanna clarify again because people think I'm only saying this to promote the film, to get more attention. That is not my, uhm...I'm very known in the industry [as someone who] speaks the truth. I don't like to B.S., I don't like to make propaganda just for the sake of promoting the film.

To make a long story short, kung fu movie is action movie but action movies are not necessarily kung fu movies. Action movies can be action comedy, war movies, Marvel, sci-fi, cop movies, detective. But kung fu movie, it's very particular. It only happens with China as background, if you think about it, right? All kung fu movies. You never see a Caucasian doing [kung fu] fighting. So it's very cultural and unique and I've done it so, so many years. It's very difficult to make kung fu movies, you need a lot of money to make kung fu movies and it takes a lot of skills from the actors because you really gotta know your kung fu and the other person gotta know their kung fu as well.

I'm gonna give you guys an example, me and Jet Li in "Once Upon A Time In China", it takes two actors really, really good in kung fu, to create classic kung fu scenes.

I want to move on and I want to make other action films.

"Ip Man 4: The Finale", starring Donnie Yen, Danny Chan, Scott Adkins, and Vanness Wu, is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

Cinema Online, 20 December 2019


Related Movies:
Ip Man 4: The Finale (Mandarin) (20 Dec 2019)
Ip Man 3 (Mandarin) (24 Dec 2015)
IP MAN 2 (Mandarin) (29 Apr 2010)
IP MAN (Mandarin) (18 Dec 2008)

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