With Episode VIII now delayed to December 2017, it feels appropriate to turn our attention even more towards Star Wars: Rogue One. Back in July, we found out that legendary martial artist and Hong Kong movie superstar Donnie Yen was cast in Rogue One. Then the first cast photo was released in August, confirming not only that Yen was in the main cast, but revealing his look.
Based on that photo, it seemed that Yen was playing a rebel character who wielded a spear and was possibly blind. Some speculated whether he would be inspired by the long-running martial arts character Zatoichi, a blind martial arts swordsman.
Although not much has been revealed to date, Yen, while promoting his upcoming film Ip Man 3, spoke briefly to USA Today about his role in Star Wars.
Doing a Star Wars movie wasn’t as hard a sell. Yen recalls watching the original 1977 movie in Boston’s Chinatown, where he lived as a teenager.
Yen already is ensconced in the Star Wars cone of secrecy. All he’ll spill is that his character “is definitely an important guy,” he had fun doing it and “I will get some action.”
This is fantastic news on several fronts. First: as legendary as Donnie Yen is to fans of Hong Kong movies, many U.S. audiences aren’t really familiar with Yen’s talents. It’s great that Yen will have an opportunity to show what he can do on arguably the largest movie stage possible in Star Wars. Second: it sounds like an Asian actor will finally get a chance to play a major role in a Star Wars movie.
It’s no secret that despite the appearance of some of the premier martial arts actors in Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, and Cecep Rahman in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, their actual scenes were substantially disappointing. All they did was pose, run around, and presumably get eaten. For someone like me, desperate for Asian representation in Star Wars, what happened to Kanjiklub hurt… it hurt bad. Jess Pava, played by Jessica Henwick, and Admiral Statura, played by Ken Leung, were great, but obviously played fairly minor roles. So Yen’s very small revelation gives me big hope that he will bring to the Star Wars universe the kind of action we’ve never seen before.
The question of course is whether Yen will play a Force-sensitive character. We know that he will not be a Jedi. But we also know that there are more Force sensitive beings than just Sith or Jedi. Further, we’ve seen numerous examples of characters who used to be Jedi, but are not longer formally considered Jedi after the events of Order 66. Regardless, I’m definitely excited to see what Rogue One has in store for us and hopeful that Yen will shine.