On January 20th, 2016 MAAC had the pleasure and honor to participate in a round table interview at a press event in L.A. with the stars of director WILSON YIP’s IP MAN 3, martial arts superstar DONNIE YEN and boxing legend MIKE TYSON.
I was joined by a handful of other journalists for this interview including R.C. Samo from FanboyNation, Radio Rahim from SecondsOut, Zach Nix from City On Fire, Laura Sirikul from Nerd Reactor, Izumi Hasegawa from Hollywood-PR, Jeandra LeBeauf from Bad Culture, Rachel Lee from Korea Daily, and Greg Lynch from Kung Fu Tai Chi Magazine.
Without further ado, here is our full interview below:
ROUND TABLE: Donnie, how do you like being more recognizable now in the U.S. because you are making that transition to the American market?
DONNIE YEN: I think it is always a plus to have more and more people appreciate your film. I mean, that is our objective to make a film. To share in a mass target audience. The world is getting smaller and smaller. It’s not Chinese or whatever. If a film is done properly, that’s the whole objective. Hopefully everybody can appreciate the value in the film itself.
ROUND TABLE: Mike, you have been re-immortalized in another video game in UFC 2, how does it feel?
MIKE TYSON: Hey, at the moment, I can only be grateful.
ROUND TABLE: How hard was it to learn the Chinese lines in IP MAN 3?
MIKE TYSON: It wasn’t hard at all. If you do it phonetically for me and spell it, I’ll pass the test. (Laughs)
ROUND TABLE: Donnie, this is your sixth film with director WILSON YIP, what are the easiest part about filming with someone you’ve filmed with a number of times before and what are the hardest part when you work together so often?
DONNIE YEN: We don’t have a hard part. I always enjoy working with him. He’s a very timid and shy person. He’s not very expressive. So as an actor, if you don’t know him sometimes you really can’t get a clear understanding of his directions. But I do know him. He doesn’t have to explain to me and I can see “is that what you want? Kind of that direction?” “Oh yeah.” There is no downside. I want to continue working with him.
ROUND TABLE: This (Ip Man 3) was the third movie. What makes this movie different, and if you are deciding to say goodbye to the character, how does it feel to say goodbye?
DONNIE YEN: I have to give credit to the director, WILSON YIP. The three installments, are all surrounded by this person, who so happened to be a martial arts grandmaster. But the story talks about a family man, how he deals with problems that we all have. The first one was about survival during the Japanese occupation and how he dealt with the depression. The second one was all about making a living. The third one is more about depth. For me, I feel as an actor, we bring the maturity as we get older, to the character. Between this and the first one, there’s more wrinkles and white hair.
ROUND TABLE: I noticed in all three of the Ip Man films, you are a very gentle character. Is that on purpose?
DONNIE YEN: On purpose. Even though this is a person, from day one, we didn’t want to make a documentary. We wanted to create a screen hero that is so different from what we had previously in different films. Usually when you have a hero, the hero saves the world or teaches his particular beliefs and philosophies.
ROUND TABLE: Donnie, after the release of IP MAN 2, there were several other adaptations based on Master Ip’s life. Did you see any of these, and if you did, did you or WILSON YIP take their success or model into account for IP MAN 3?
DONNIE YEN: Not at all. Of course, we made the first one. The only other different “Ip Man” movie that I saw, I didn’t even finish the film, was the WONG KAR WAI film (The Grandmaster), because I’m a friend of TONY LEUNG, and I want to see how they bring this together. Every filmmaker has their own vision, how they create the story and what message they promote. From day one, we knew this was our model and this is what we want to convey, and we want to stick with that.
MIKE TYSON: This is the face of Ip Man! That’s just what it is. The guy could be a better actor or perform better, but this is Ip Man. This is our champion.
ROUND TABLE: And Mike, of course we know you from your huge history in boxing and the impact you have on the sport. When choreographing the fight scenes in the movie, how difficult was it for you to maneuver so you didn’t hurt somebody?
MIKE TYSON: It was not too hard. I’m a professional.
DONNIE YEN: He have very good control.
MIKE TYSON: I’m not gonna make any mistake. If anything I’m gonna get hurt. The person in front of me, he’s not gonna get hurt.
ROUND TABLE: What was the typical scene like while you were filming the fight scene?
MIKE TYSON: Long scenes. Real long fight scenes. And not many cuts so the scenes were prolong. It was the best I’ve ever did in a movie. If I say which was the best movie, I’m most simplistic but I’ve gotten the most out of it in an educational perspective, I would say this movie right here.
ROUND TABLE: Did you guys learn anything from each other? Because you are a champion boxer and you a martial artist, during the scenes did you guys feel like you learned a lot from each other?
DONNIE YEN: I learned a lot. I was trying to get some secret tips from him. (Laughs) But we unfortunately did not have enough time because we spent most of it filming.
MIKE TYSON: I was happy being with him. When I always think of the Chinese culture, my ideas always come from the Shaw Brothers movies. I’m African American, they’re always oppressed, they’re the weak man of the East, this and that. They over come all of these physical and emotional quagmires.
ROUND TABLE: I notice the culture between boxing and martial arts are somewhat similar in that this is a “master and pupil” kinda storyline and many boxers come up young under the tutelage of trainers, obviously the story custom modeled with yourself Mike. How did that storyline and culture of martial arts speak to you and was that a way for you to connect with the film?
MIKE TYSON: The whole barometer of being the role of the student/pupil, I have that down. I know to bow down. I know the master is the master. I know how to play that role. I know that role calls to be a lot more humble. It shows more humbleness. That is why only the greatest fighters are the most humble cuz they know what its like to get their ass kicked. (Laughs)
ROUND TABLE: There’s a lot of fighters out there with names, and obviously Mike is a icon. How did you decide on MIKE TYSON and what did he bring to the role that no other boxer could? Also I was wondering if you guys were fans of each other?
DONNIE YEN: I’ve always been a big fan of Mike. I watch every single one of his fights. He’s a legend. For me, it was a total honor and thrilled to be able to not only work with Mike but to have fought him in the third installment. Hopefully Mike, you’re going to return for the fourth installment? (Laughs)
MIKE TYSON: I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m gonna live for today.
ROUND TABLE: How did you get involved with this one (Ip Man 3) Mike?
MIKE TYSON: They said, “Hey, do you want to be in Ip Man?” and I was like, yeah! (laughs) I called my friend, and he was like, “Get the **** out of here!” I’m in Ip Man!”
ROUND TABLE: What was your first reaction when you met each other?
DONNIE YEN: Just, overwhelmed! Because I recall watching every single one of Mike’s fights. At the time, they were on HBO, I would watch them in Hong Kong. The time difference, I had to stay up all night to watch him, but than he’d knock the other guy in two seconds! That’s it! (Laughs)
MIKE TYSON: I thought it was like 18 years ago, but he said the first Ip Man was only eight years ago. A friend of mine, had told me about the movie, and he gave me the movie, and I watched it a few times, and I watched the second one, and than I told him I’m in part three, and he told me, “Oh man, I’m so happy!”
ROUND TABLE: The hologram (CGI) issue. A lot have been made of it. People thought we might see a Bruce Lee hologram and you ended up hiring an actor.
DONNIE YEN: You know, I wanted to see that happen. But that was between the producers and the Bruce Lee estate. It didn’t happen. But I think this actor (Danny Chan) really look like Bruce Lee and did a wonderful job. So whatever it’s worth this is the best, besides the real Bruce Lee, this is the best you can get.
ROUND TABLE: They talk about this being the final film, or is it a potential for a fourth or Bruce Lee starring?
DONNIE YEN: There’s a potential for a fourth.
ROUND TABLE: So you would come back?
DONNIE YEN: I don’t know. Maybe. So far, in Asia, we have broken a lot of records. Never say never.
ROUND TABLE: Congratulations, by the way. It beat Star Wars (in Asia).
MIKE TYSON: That’s why Star Wars called him! If you can’t beat him, join him! (Laughs)
DONNIE YEN: It’s a blessing. I love ‘Star Wars’ too. I’m very grateful to be in such a major intellectual property film.
ROUND TABLE: Congratulation Donnie. This year you have three films being released in the U.S. I was just wondering after this one (Ip Man 3) which have a lot of action, with CROUCHING TIGER 2 and ROGUE ONE do you have a chance to do a different style of “action”?
DONNIE YEN: They are totally different. CROUCHING TIGER 2 is more of a sword movie, long hair, flying up on the roof, doing all kinds of stylistic graceful movements against gravity. And of course ROGUE ONE is in the ‘Star Wars’ universe. They’re very different. For an actor, I’m very fortunate and blessed that I was given the opportunities of these three such different roles and movies.
ROUND TABLE: We haven’t seen you in a American film for a long time, I’m just wondering why you choose to join ROGUE ONE?
DONNIE YEN: You know, I never purposely say “I want to be in an American film” or “I want to be in a Chinese film”. For me I want to be in films that I feel is appropriate that carry the proper lesson. Besides being the business side of it, the artistic side of it, for me it is very important to choose a film and to play a role that can represent in a way where as an actor, I feel a certain social responsibility you know? So therefore I like to use film, as it is a powerful platform, to carry out these positive images especially to children.
ROUND TABLE: I don’t know if you can say, but is the character that you play in ROGUE ONE blind?
DONNIE YEN: I can’t say.(laughs) But its going to be a great film.
ROUND TABLE: Mike, did you get hurt during the filming of IP MAN 3?
MIKE TYSON: I broke my finger.
ROUND TABLE: Is it because Donnie hit you? (Laughs)
MIKE TYSON: No, its because I hit him. (Laughs)
ROUND TABLE: Donnie, if I’m not mistaken its been over 20 years since you’ve last worked with action choreographer YUEN WOO PING.
DONNIE YEN: Yes, more than 20 years.
ROUND TABLE: How was it like to finally getting back together on this film?
DONNIE YEN: You know, its funny right. The last time I worked with him (Woo Ping) 20 something years ago, I didn’t feel like it was that long. Maybe because I grew as a filmmaker and action director myself and he’s been watching my films, and of course I’ve been studying his films as well. So this time around its very mutual. It’s like we hung out yesterday and we’ve united again to be better. I mean you’ve seen the film, the work speaks for itself. Even though he’s in his 70s, he’s like a young kid, he wants to play, he wants to explore. He was so excited to not only work with me again but work with Mike. For him it was like he has some new toys here! (Laughs)
ROUND TABLE: Mike, what was it like working with him (Woo Ping) for the first time?
MIKE TYSON: I was having a ball. Me and the (action) director really couldn’t communicate much. Certain people can speak the language and understand the culture, and Donnie explained it to me.
DONNIE YEN: Vice versa. Also, trying to explain some of Mike’s comments and some of his input, I convert that to master Yuen Woo Ping. I was acting as a bit of a personal translator/middle person.
MIKE TYSON: He’s a good guy. Fun, smart.
ROUND TABLE: Since you were unable to do SPL 2, do you have any plans to do a sequel to any of your other popular contemporary action flicks? Perhaps a follow-up to FLASHPOINT?
DONNIE YEN: Yes, I will be producing FLASHPOINT 2.
ROUND TABLE: For both of you, what is the meaning of martial arts/boxing to you?
MIKE TYSON: I dunno. From a spiritual perspective, a human perspective, a physical perspective. People call me a boxer, but I call myself a fighter. All my life I’m just a fighter and I’ve learned the art of fighting is not fighting. That’s the real art of fighting.
DONNIE YEN: I grew up as a martial artist. My mother teaches martial arts. Fortunately I can use the upbringing art and turn it into a career. Not intentionally but everything happen for a reason. You know my back story, I was brought into the industry. I was discovered by YUEN WOO PING some 33 years ago and I never stopped working. Very blessed. So for me it’s all part of the destiny. My life, this is my life and it’s all part of the destiny.
ROUND TABLE: You both have a troubled teenage experience, but with this life experience, what did you learn from this experience and what would you say to your younger self?
MIKE TYSON: Go f*ck yourself. (Laughs) That’s what I’m dealing with now. I’m saying to myself, if any other kid would listen to me because of the dreads but he doesn’t. That just means that he is so stupid. (Laughs)
DONNIE YEN: I’m pretty much same with Mike, but in a more reserved way. (Laughs)
ROUND TABLE: If your teenager is having a hard time, what do you tell them?
DONNIE YEN: As a parent, as a father I’m still learning everyday. It’s tough to grow in society today. It’s tough back then and it’s even tougher now. I don’t know all the answers and I’m trying to explore.
MIKE TYSON: There’s no blue print buddy.
DONNIE YEN: I’m just learning as they grow and I’m growing with them.
There you have it guys. This is an experience I have been waiting for for over 27 years since I became a fan of Yen in 1989’s ‘In The Line Of Duty 4’.
From his classics such as ‘Tiger Cage 2’ & ‘Iron Monkey’ to his more recent hits such as ‘SPL’, ‘Flashpoint’, and ‘Ip Man’, Yen’s career have span over 30 years and he have finally achieved the international recognition that he truly deserves.
To finally meet DONNIE YEN in the flesh, who I consider to be one of the most skilled (in front AND behind the camera) and influential martial arts superstar in the last 25 years next to the likes of Jackie Chan and Jet Li, is truly a dream come true.
Congratulations to DONNIE YEN and also MIKE TYSON on the international success of ‘Ip Man 3’! We here at MAAC can not wait for whats in stores for the rest of 2016!