Donnie Yen Called Out ‘John Wick 4’ and ‘Rogue One’ Asian Stereotypes, Got Scripts Changed: Why Is the Name ‘Always Shang or Chang?’
Donnie Yen is making his “John Wick” debut in the upcoming fourth installment as Caine, a blind assassin caught between his ties to the villainous High Table and his friendship with Keanu Reeves’ eponymous killer. It turns out Yen’s character was not originally named Caine. The actor told GQ magazine that he called out the “John Wick: Chapter 4” script for including Asian stereotypes, leading to changes regarding his character’s name and appearance in the film.
“The name was Shang or Chang,” Yen said of his “John Wick” character. “Why does he always have to be called Shang or Chang? Why can’t he have a normal name? Why do you have to be so generic? Then the wardrobe again — oh, mandarin collars. Why is everything so generic? This is a ‘John Wick’ movie. Everybody’s supposed to be cool and fashionable. Why can’t he look cool and fashionable?”
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“John Wick: Chapter 4” director Chad Stahelski listened to Yen’s criticism and agreed to modify the character. Yen, who was able to redesign the character as an homage to Bruce Lee, maintained that he had “a very respectful experience working on ‘John Wick,'” adding, “Overall, I enjoyed making the film.”
It was hardly the first time Yen played a role in un-stereotyping a Hollywood tentpole. When Yen was being courted to star as the blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe in Disney’s “Star Wars” prequel movie “Rogue One,” the script positioned the character as a stereotypical martial artist.
“One thing I pointed out is he was a stereotype. Typical master. Doesn’t smile,” Yen said. The actor made his criticisms known to the “Rogue One” creative team, who responded by overhauling the script to give Chirrut more comedic beats. Yen was even afforded opportunities to improvise jokes during filming.
“John Wick: Chapter 4” opens in theaters nationwide March 24 from Lionsgate.
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