When the impossible feat is accomplished by the one you didn’t think could, it is uplifting and motivating. The incredible Donnies Yen plays Chirrut Imwe in Rogue One, and you can expect nothing less than impressive from him and his character. His martial arts are beyond amazing. Once I found out Donnie Yen is Chirrut The Spiritually Centered Master Rebel Figher in Rogue One, I was ready for some spectacular fight scenes! As Donnie Yen talks with us during our exclusive Rogue One interview, I am on the edge of my seat to watch Rogue One and see how Chirrut contributes to the rebel team.
Donnie Yen is Chirrut Imwe, The Spiritually Centered Master Rebel Figher in Rogue One
As Donnie Yen walked into the interview room, he was so approachable that it didn’t feel the super star that he is had arrived. You might recognize him from Blade I and Shanghai Knights among others. Throughout the interview I got the sense that he considered his answers to give us the very best he could. Insightful and professional is how I would describe Donnie Yen.
The question is, how would he describe Chirrut Imwe? “Chirrut, he’s blind but spiritual. He’s the spiritual center of the team. He’s the Force believer. He preaches this and he has a little bit of a sense of humor. And he beats up all the Storm Troopers.
Rumors have it that Chirrut was not supposed to be blind.
Apparently it was Donnie who brought this to the character. We asked him to confirm this and he shares: ” I don’t want to take any credit. [It’s more] a contribution. I think it’s the collaboration of both. That’s the nature of being an artist. You express your take on your character. In the beginning when I was discussing my character with Gareth and I just felt it would be so much cooler to make him less of a cliché character. How about give him a little bit of vulnerability? Disabled? How about being blind? And a little bit sense of humor? That was always been my persistence of keeping him grounded, having that sense of humor so the audience can relate to him a lot more. I suggested it and he (Gareth) was cool with it and Disney loved it and here we are.
The Difficulties of Playing Chirrut
After 70 films you better believe Donnie Yen has a strong fan base. What he loves about it is that his fan go for all the different types of movies he has made. He didn’t want to be set on a specific kind of movie, like action or martial arts ones. Instead he wanted to push himself as an actor. So, comedies, romantic movies are all in his portfolio. Funny thing is, he had never played a blind person before. What challenges did he find playing Chirrut? “It was really challenging and I underestimated the difficulty of playing a blind character because it was hard. Having contact lenses, looks interesting, but having to take them off every three hours and because it irritates your eyes and every ten minutes I needed drops. It bothered me. Very irritating. And you can’t really see. Everything was blurry. I was having difficulty measuring the distance as well. I couldn’t look at my fellow actors in their eyes and I couldn’t get (their) reactions.”
Yen Never Played a Blind Man Before
Nevertheless, Yen’s partial blindness contributed further to immersing into his character because : “The fact that he’s blind (pushes him) he has to feel, he has to use his heart to feel. That puts my character even closer to the Force. He’s the spiritual center and he practices the Force, but being a blind person, he has to feel the Force.”
Donnie Yen and Martial Arts in Rogue One
Thanks to the extraordinary martial arts background that Donnie Yen has, his fights scenes were perhaps not as grueling as they were to other cast members. “I just do it. To me it’s like a musician. You play music all your life and it’s just jump in there. I actually play music myself. I play piano. As an actor who specialize in physical expressions, for me it was just another [day].”.
He did not give anyone any pointers or suggestions on their fight scenes to respect the other actors’ process.
He says “I recall I gave Felicity a pointers here and there, but I didn’t want to interrupt what they were doing. I didn’t want to overwhelm them, bombard them with, “Oh, this is what you need to do,” because you can get really technical with, with this type of knowledge. So general kind of directions like especially with safety and some pointers here and there. But I didn’t want to interrupt anybody from, from them crafting their own character.”.
Chirrut’s Fighting Preferences
So what would Chirrut’s preference be to fight the empire, bowcaster or a lightsaber? To answer this Yen jokes that if he had a lightsaber, the Empire wouldn’t have a chance against Chirrut! He would have taken on Darth Vader himself and the movie would be all about Chirrut 🙂
Donnie Yen Almost Said No to Star Wars!
I am so glad his kids pointed him in the right direction! From the 28 minutes that we experienced of the film, Chirrut is an explosion in his fight scenes. Rogue One needed Donnie Yen. He explains his thought process about being in Rogue One like this: “My agent called me and they said, “Disney wants you to be in Star Wars.” Then Gareth called and I was hoping for an answer and I got it. He really felt I had the persona of portraying this character in his mind and that was the answer I was looking for as an actor. I know it sounds crazy, but in the very beginning I was hesitant of coming on board. I know “Star Wars. I didn’t wanted to leave my family, my kids and be in London for five months. I just got off from another movie and I live in Hong Kong. I said, “I don’t know.” Then I went to my kids, Jasmine and James. They were 12 and 8. I said, “Do do you want Baba to be in Star Wars?” Without a doubt they said, “Star Wars!” All the family members and friends and all the fan voices came out of nowhere and said, “You gotta be in Star Wars! You gotta be in Star Wars!” I realized I’m making history. So I’m so glad.”.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
December 16th is when we all get to appreciate Donnie Yen in his Star Wars role. We are going as a family, and can’t wait to take in the story, the action and be beginnings of this franchise. I have my tickets ready, do you?
Read all of our Rogue One interviews and articles: