Donnie Yen criticises original 'John Wick: 4' script for stereotyping Asians: 'Why is everything so generic?'


Donnie Yen says he had a 'respectful experience' working on set of 'John Wick 4' Photo: ONG SOON HIN/The Star

Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen created buzz after confirming in 2021 that he will be starring in the Hollywood blockbuster, John Wick: Chapter 4.

In a recent interview with GQ magazine, Yen revealed that he wasn't originally keen on accepting the role of Caine – a blind assassin and friend of the lead protagonist – after deeming that it perpetuated Asian stereotypes.

"The name was Shang or Chang. Why does he always have to be called Shang or Chang? Why can't he have a normal name? Why do you have to be so generic?" the 59-year-old said, adding that he also disapproved of Caine's original wardrobe choices.

"Then the wardrobe again – oh, Mandarin collars. Why is everything so generic? This is a John Wick movie. Everybody's supposed to be cool and fashionable. Why can't he (Caine) look cool and fashionable?" he lamented.

Thankfully, director Chad Stahelski listened to Yen's concerns and agreed to make changes to his character's name and appearance. Caine's redesigned look, according to Yen, partly pays homage to his hero, martial arts icon Bruce Lee.

Despite the circumstances, the Ip Man star reiterated that he had a "respectful experience" working on set and that his complaint wasn't just directed solely to the John Wick creator. In fact, it was more to illustrate the challenges he and other Asian actors have to face even till today.

This isn't the first time Yen has dealt with stereotypical tropes.

When he was approached by Disney to play as blind warrior Chirrut Imwe in the 2016 film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the actor shared that the script positioned his character as a "generic martial arts warrior".

"One thing I pointed out is he was a stereotype. Typical master ... doesn't smile," Yen explained, adding that it was his idea to make the character blind.

John Wick: Chapter 4 – set to release at cinemas nationwide March 23 – is stars Keanu Reeves, Skarsgard, Laurence Fishburne, Hiroyuki Sanada and Shamier Anderson.

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