Rogue One star Donnie Yen was honored yesterday at the TCL Chinese Theatre during the iconic handprint and footprint cement ceremony and I was there! This report is a narrative of my own experience attending this ceremony as a fan.
About the Ceremony
The legendary cement ceremony is an incredible honor reserved for Hollywood’s elite, and it was fantastic that Yen, who has made over 70 films, was finally recognized. The TCL Chinese Theatre describes the honor as follows:
Many thousands of Hollywood’s elite have graced the halls of the TCL Chinese Theatres at the movies, red carpet premieres and ceremonies. But only a select few have been invited to join the exclusive society known as the Forecourt of the Stars. From Marilyn Monroe to George Clooney, from Betty Grable’s legs to Jimmy Durante’s nose, Sid Grauman is timeless tradition helped ensure Hollywood would leave its impression on not only Los Angeles but on the world for generations to come.
I’m a bit of a Donnie Yen fan. When this ceremony was announced, I knew I couldn’t miss it. Being a Hong Kong superstar, Yen doesn’t make that many personal appearances in the U.S. Further, after Rogue One premieres, I’m certain Yen’s stardom will reach unprecedented lumens. The challenge with these types of events is the unpredictability of the fan response–would there be a flood of people lined up hours in advance? Would I have a chance to get close enough to even view the ceremony? Would Donnie recognize me from constantly tweeting him?!
I arrived one hour before the scheduled start. Running up the steps, I was nervous and anxious to see what the line looked like. On one hand, Yen is literally an international star. On the other, it seems like many casual U.S. audiences aren’t that familiar with his work. The site was still relatively quiet. These ceremonies take place in front of the famed TCL Chinese Theatre in the heart of Hollywood. Tourists are a constant in this area so it was hard to know if people were there for Donnie Yen or if they were just there to take pictures of…everything. Security pointed me around the corner to the fan line. My immediate thought was “there’s another place for the line?” I rushed over and happily found that there were only a handful of people before me. After about 30 minutes, they walked us into an area near the stage, just outside the press area. Ultimately they only allowed about 20-25 fans in. I was thrilled, as I was able to set up in the very front just behind the barricade. Now the waiting.
For many of us who have waited in line for various Star Wars-related events, the palpable excitement during the wait, and the camaraderie that develops amongst the fans, is half the fun. There certainly was some of that. The difference though, is that a significant portion of those lined up were “professional” autograph hounds. Professional hounds are no joke. They have a stack of material to get signed and they’ll do what it takes to get the job done. (More on that later.) One person gloated to me that “many famous hands have held my pen.” I’m fairly certain he was still talking about autographs.
Eventually the ceremony got started. Samuel L. Jackson and Kathleen Kennedy were scheduled to speak, but Jackson was nowhere to be found. A last-minute scratch it seemed.
Kathy Kennedy gave a few remarks on Yen’s career and his character Chirrut Imwe. Kennedy said that when Chirrut Imwe was conceived as a character, Donnie Yen was the actor they thought of first to play the role. Kennedy described Chirrut Imwe as the heart of Rogue One, saying that he embodies the inspiration that the other heroes need to succeed in their mission. It was easy to see why Yen was perfect for the role. Kennedy then introduced the man of the hour.
With Kennedy’s warm introduction, Yen walked up the stage; he was visibly excited and even nervous. Yen’s English was excellent. Several fans commented on how well spoken he was. Yen thanked the TCL Chinese Theater, Disney, Lucasfilm, his family, his wife Cissy and
me his fans. What was particularly moving was that Yen finished by saying that as a Chinese actor, he was honored and proud of this achievement, and that he hopes that his achievement would inspire all young actors to achieve their dreams.
After speaking, Yen walked down the stage, at which point some crazy fanboy screamed “We love you Donnie!” He waved at
me that guy. After gracing the cement block with his hands, feet, and signature and posing for a variety of pictures with notable attendees, including Kathy Kennedy, he motioned to his team that he wanted to stop and sign some autographs.
As I mentioned above, the autograph hounds are serious about their “business.” They really don’t care how rude they are or who they have to push, shove, crush to get to the signature. It’s disappointing because they really sour the environment for all involved. Yen handled the crowds with grace and humility. He moved quickly but didn’t seem rushed and was really nice to those who interacted with him.
As fan, it went as well as I could have imagined. Managing expectations is always important with these things. In my mind, my perfect, ideal scenario was as follows: 1) be close enough to get a good view of the ceremony, 2) get Donnie to sign my Chirrut Funko POP!, and 3) take a selfie with Donnie. Accomplishing all three seemed unlikely, but just being close enough to watch the ceremony would make the trip worth it. Thankfully the Force was with me and I was able to check all three off my list.
Ironically, one pushy autograph hound turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I asked Yen to take a selfie with me and he was very kind (as was his incredibly sweet and humble wife/manager Cissy). During the picture, this guy was shoving his Chirrut Funko POP! in Yen’s face. What resulted was a serendipitous selfie with me, Donnie and the Chirrut POP! To me, the perfect photo.
Below is my grainy recording of Donnie’s gracious speech. I think his sincerity really comes through. On behalf of the MakingStarWars.net family, congratulations to Donnie Yen and his family for this incredible honor!