How getting 'fat' for new CNY film helped Donnie Yen become more fit
Action star Donnie Yen leaves iconic role as the Wing Chun master behind and dons 40kg fat suit in new action comedy
Donnie Yen was so eager to cast off the shadow of Wing Chun master Ip Man he decided to take on a role that is the opposite of what he is best known for.
In his latest Chinese New Year action comedy Enter The Fat Dragon, the 56-year-old Hong Kong action star plays a heartbroken police officer who ends up putting on more than 90kg after getting dumped by his fiancee (Niki Chow).
Nonetheless, he continues to be an agile fighter as he encounters a series of mishaps on the job.
Opening here tomorrow, the movie is directed by Wong Jing and was inspired by a humorous 2015 commercial Yen's film company Super Hero Films shot for visco-elastic health and wellness products brand SinoMax in 2015.
Yen told The New Paper over the phone from Hong Kong on Monday: "We thought the persona (of the main character) was quite cute and saw the potential to develop it into a movie character."
He added: "The first two movies I acted in were action-comedies and it was only as my career progressed that people started acknowledging my role as Ip Man.
"I love challenges and hope that after bidding goodbye to Ip Man, I'll be able to develop and present more creative ideas in time to come.
"I hope everyone can put down their favourite Ip Man and see that I'm actually a multi-dimensional actor and film-maker who can take on and pull off a variety of roles."
Filming Enter The Fat Dragon was no walk in the park, especially with the "extra weight" he had to put on.
While Yen did not have to binge-eat to gain those kilos, it took three to four hours to put on the special make-up and prosthetics - and an additional one hour to take them off.
Yen recalled: "On top of that, I had to don a 30 to 40kg suit, which made me feel very miserable as I couldn't breathe, and it also affected my agility during the action scenes.
"For instance, because of the additional 'fats', I became less flexible and I would have to use more force to do a simple split."
Fortunately, a silver lining emerged during the process - a healthier, leaner Yen.
He said: "When I removed the suit at the end of each day, I would have sweated buckets and felt like I was going through hell.
"But the more I was in that suit, I think I became slimmer and fitter as I had to exert a lot of force to fight throughout the movie."
On the most challenging scene he did for Enter The Fat Dragon, Yen had to act like he was attacked by a dog.
He said: "I had to be very detailed and meticulous in my performance and technique as there were no special effects or real animals involved.
"And I was very satisfied with the execution of it."
Ip Man 4: The Finale earned more than $6 million at the Singapore box office and was the only Asian movie to crack the Top 10 last year, even beating the takings of Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.
Yen is thankful for the continuous support fans have shown for the film franchise over the past 12 years.
He said: "We have been through countless productions and actors playing their respective characters in the films, and for this franchise to be able to achieve a record-breaking result like this, I am very grateful."
But he added: "I hope everyone will stop 'wasting' money on tickets. It would be enough if we just let this franchise continue to leave good memories."
When asked if he thinks Enter The Fat Dragon can surpass Ip Man at the box office, Yen said that is not something he can control as there are many factors involved.
"I can only put in my best in producing and acting, and hope the audience will find it a good show.
"I also don't give myself too much pressure because I know not every movie can achieve an effect like Ip Man."