Veteran Hong Kong film star Donnie Yen is rumored to become the newest member of the Jedi Order, in what would be an important step forward for Chinese Padawans as well as for George Lucas’ giant pile of money.
Hong Kong tabloid Apple Daily reports that the Ip Man star will fly to London early next month to begin filming scenes with none other than Harrison Ford for the next planned edition in the beloved Star Wars series. Officially, neither Yen or Ford have been confirmed as starring in Star Wars: Episode VIII, which is planned to come out on May 26, 2017.
According to Apple Daily, Yen won the role of Chinese Jedi over an assortment of other leading actors including Jet Li, Stephen Chow, Tony Leung, Chiu Wai, Daniel Wu, Wang Leehom and Chang Chen. Because of their fighting skills and English proficiency, the choice reportedly came down to Yen and Li. Yen emerged victorious in the duel decided by their asking price with Yen commanding a mere $4 million per flick compared to $10 million per for Li.
Apple Daily also reports that it has been confirmed for about a month that Yen will be bringing his martial arts talents to a galaxy far, far away, but he is under a strict oath to not leak the news. The Jedi Council won’t be pleased.
If Yen’s casting is true, then it’s certainly some welcome news for those asking for a little more diversity among the Jedi ranks, which includes members from a number of species, but as of yet no marketable Chinese star. Following the record-breaking success of seemingly every single recent American blockbuster at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is beginning to pay greater attention to marketing to Chinese fans, who apparently would be reluctant to see the forthcoming installment in the greatest film series of all time without the promise of five minutes of screen time from a recognizable Hong Kong action star.
Earlier this month, the first three Star Wars films were shown in the Shanghai Film Festival, marking the first time the original trilogy has been screened on the mainland, in order to drum up some excitement for the upcoming “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” which hits theaters worldwide in December. Reviews were mixed with many Chinese viewers complaining that the Star Wars actors were not handsome enough. Maybe Yen can change that perception.
by Alex Linder