I’ve got another #RogueOneEvent interview today and this time it’s for a character that surprised me in the preview we got to screen. I can’t wait for you to see Donnie Yen’s character Chirrut Îmwe. Heck, I can’t wait to see more of him!
In the meantime, here’s a bit more about Donnie Yen, his character Chirrut, and what it’s like to act while your vision is limited.
Donnie Yen Rogue One Blogger Interview
Tell us about your character
“Chirrut, he’s blind but he’s spiritual. He’s the spiritual center of the team. He’s the Force believer. He preaches this and he’s got a little bit of a sense of humor. Yeah, and he beats up all the Storm Troopers.”
I read that you changed your character. He originally wasn’t blind but you changed it.
“I don’t want to take any credit, it’s like a contribution. I think it’s the collaboration of both. That’s the nature of being an artist. You express your takes on your character. So in the beginning when I was discussing my character with Gareth, I just felt it would be so much cooler to make him less of a cliché character, like, warrior monk, you know.
How serious is that, right? How about give him a little bit of vulnerability, you know. How about being blind? And a little bit of a sense of humor? That was always been my persistence of keeping him grounded, having that sense of humor so the audience can relate to him a lot more. So, I suggested it and, and he’s cool with it and Disney loved it and here we are.”
How much of the story had to be changed to accommodate a blind, your blind character?
“I don’t think much. That was months before I was on the set and started filming. So I think that just goes with anything about filmmaking. You make adjustments on a day-to-day basis, even with the lines.
We revise it and obviously we need approval by, by the studio, especially when dealing with the biggest I.P. in the film industry, Star War. There’s a lot of responsibility on our hands. But we do get that kind of freedom to shape our character along the process.”
On the difficulties of playing a character with blindness:
“It was really challenging and I underestimated the difficulty of playing a blind character because it was hard. Having the contact lenses, it looks interesting, but having to take them off every three hours and let it rest because it irritates your eyes and every ten minutes I needed drops. It bothered me, very irritating. And you can’t really see, everything was blurry. Even with technology today, they still were not able to manage to make blue pair of contact lenses and having that specific look and giving the full clarity of my sight. So I was having difficulty measuring the distance as well.
The most difficult part wasn’t even about the seeing clearly. It was more as an actor I couldn’t look at my fellow actors in their eyes and I couldn’t get the reactions. When I’m talking I have to look at a point. And that was very, very frustrating. Frustrating, because I didn’t wanna look without the complexity of each line and the emotion.
So I was trying to fine-tune my acting every single day. It was kind of like you, you feel like you’re not in control of yourself, where you’re supposed to have all these years of experience being an actor. So that was quite difficult.”
Did that make you feel like you were able to portray the character better?
“You know, actually in that perspective yes. In return certain benefits were given because of the fact that he’s blind, he has to feel, he has to use his heart to feel it and that puts my character even closer to the Force.”
The other cast members have talked about how physically grueling this was. Because you have such a background in martial arts, did you feel there was a difference in what you do every day?
“I just, I just do it. To me it’s like a musician, you know? You play music all your life and it’s just “jump in there”. I actually play music myself. I play piano. As an actor who specializes in physical expressions, for me it was just another, “just dive in”.”
Did you give anybody pointers on what to do?
“Not so much! I mean, I recall I gave Felicity a few pointers here and there, but I didn’t want to interrupt what they were doing. I didn’t want to overwhelm them, bombard them with, “Oh, this is what you need to do,” because you can get really technical with this type of specific knowledge, right? I didn’t want to interrupt anybody from, from them crafting their own character.”
How did you come to be part of Star Wars?
“Came part of, oh my goodness. My agent called me and they said, “Disney want you to be in Star Wars.” Then Gareth called and I was hoping for an answer and I got it. He really felt that I have the persona of portraying this character in his mind and that was the answer I was looking for as an actor. But, I know it sounds crazy, but in the very beginning I was hesitant of coming on board. I know “Star Wars,” I didn’t wanted to leave my family, my kids and be in London for five months. I just got off from another movie and I live in Hong Kong. ”
He told us about asking his kids and family and they ALL told him that he HAD to do Star Wars! I can’t WAIT for you all to see his character. This was one of the characters that I can’t wait to see more of than what I did see (which was my favorite scene so far).
Don’t forget that Rogue One is out officially December 16th! You’ll want to grab your tickets for this weekend now if you don’t have them already.