01-19-2009 17:28

Martial artist and Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen was born in Canton, China, on July 27, 1963 to newspaper editor Klyster Yen and martial arts master Bow Sim Mark. When he started growing up, Donnie started taking up martial arts at the age of four from his mother who taught him tai chi and wushu until he was eleven when he moved to Boston, MA, with his family. From there, Donnie continued with tai chi and wushu but soon also began experimenting with various martial art styles, such as taekwondo, kickboxing and boxing as his interest for martial arts got huge. When he was sixteen, his parents sent him to Beijing Wushu Academy so he would train Chinese MA under Master Wu Bin, well known as the coach of Jet Li. He underwent intensive training for three years.

Donnie Yen, Hong Kong action star
Donnie Yen, Hong Kong action star

After those years passed by, he was about to leave back to the States, but made a side trip to Hong Kong, and there he was accidentally introduced to famous Hong Kong action director Woo-ping Yuen, who was responsible for bringing Jackie Chan to super stardom and was looking for someone new to star in his movies. Donnie was offered a screen test, which he passed, and thereafter a 4-picture deal; first starting with stunt doubling duty on the movie Qi men dun jia (1982) before starring in his first film, Siu taai gik (1984), at the age of 19. He continued his early film career working independently with Woo-ping Yuen and at TVB to take up more acting experiences, and then started getting attention in the late 1980s and mid 1990s after he was offered a contract by the D&B Films Co. whom gave him major roles in the well known films Dak ging to lung (1988), Wong ga si je ji IV: Jik gik jing yan (1989) and Sai hak chin (1990) which got his reputation spread out within the Hong Kong film circuit. But after a while, the company did not do well and in the end went bankrupt which left Donnie with no choice but to go back to TVB and venture into low-budget film-making.

But the misfortune didn't last long. Famous director Hark Tsui had just made a successful attempt to revive the kung fu genre with Wong Fei Hung (1991) which starred Jet Li, and was looking for someone to play the new nemesis in the sequel Wong Fei Hung II: Nam yi dong ji keung (1992). Through Donnie's earlier films and his rep as one of the most effective pound-for-pound on-screen fighters, Hark became hooked and decided to approach, discuss, and eventually cast him in the role of General Lan which became a turning point in Donnie's career. His fight scenes with Jet Li revolutionized the standards of Hong Kong martial arts choreography at the time and are still regarded as among the best fights ever created in Hong Kong film history. Another acclaim by critics and movie goers was Donnie's acting performance, which was so outstanding that he was nominated for the "Best Supporting Actor" award at the 1992 Hong Kong Film Awards.

After the excellent performance in that movie, Donnie starred in other successful and classic movies, such as Sun lung moon hak chan (1992) for director 'Raymond Lee (II)' (qv,) and San lau sing woo dip gim (1993) by Michael Mak, but still continued to work with Woo-ping Yuen on movies including So Hak-Yi (1993), Siu nin Wong Fei Hung ji: Tit Ma Lau (1993) (which is considered as one of the most influential movies ever made in the subgenre today) and Wing Chun (1994). But after that, both of them decided it was best to work on their own so they ended up going separate ways and haven't collaborated with each other ever since.

During this period, Donnie got into TV work and worked on a couple of TV series for ATV as actor and action director. The first was "Kung fu si fu" (1994) which depicted the life of martial arts legend Hung Hei-Kwan. The TV series was a big success and Donnie continued the success and starred in and action directed "Jing wu men" (1995), also successful, which retold the story of Chen Zhen, the character made famous by Bruce Lee in the original movie classic with the same title. Aside the TV work, Donnie was offered roles by prolific director/producer Jing Wong in movies such as Dou sing 2: Gai tau dou sing (1995) and got other offers which includes Ma hei siu ji (1994) where he co-starred with local action star Biao Yuen, and Go aat sin (1995) which was shot in the Philippines.