Before John Wick Fame, Donnie Yen Bagged $683M Vin Diesel Franchise Role Only Because Jet Li Dropped Out

Donnie Yen played the role of Xiang in the 2017 sequel and his performance in the film was outstanding

Before John Wick Fame, Donnie Yen Bagged $683M Vin Diesel Franchise Role Only Because Jet Li Dropped Out

SUMMARY

  • Donnie Yen is a well-known figure in the martial arts genre, featured in martial arts films for over 35 years.
  • Yen has worked in successful films such as Ip Man, Hero, Raging Fire, and XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, and has recently joined the cast of Keanu Reeves' action franchise in addition to the John Wick franchise.
  • He was not originally planned to be a part of the film, as Jet Li was supposed to play the role but left "abruptly".
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Donnie Yen holds a special place in cinema history, he has been featured in martial arts films for over 35 years. His performance in his films has made him a superstar in China, and some people even go to the extent of comparing him with the top martial arts stars of Asia, Jackie Chan and Jet Li. Yen has followed in the footsteps of his idol and became a well-known figure in the martial arts genre. 

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Donnie Yen
Donnie Yen

While most of us know about Donnie Yen from the John Wick franchise, he has worked in a number of successful films such as Ip Man, Hero, Raging Fire, and many more. However, before joining Keanu Reeves’ action franchise, he has been a part of Vin Diesel’s XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, as a martial artist and adding to the diversity of the cast of the film.

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Donnie Yen Joins XXX Franchise After Jet Li Leaves Abruptly

Donnie Yen played the role of Xiang in the 2017 sequel, and his portrayal in the film was outstanding, his performance in the film was nothing short of captivating. The actor embodied his role in the film showcasing menacing and jaw-dropping fight scenes that will surely leave a lasting impression in the minds of the viewers.

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Donnie Yen as Xiang in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
Donnie Yen as Xiang in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

While the Iron Monkey actor was outstanding in the film, he was not planned to be a part of the film, as Jet Li was supposed to play the role, but he left. As per Birth Movies Death via IGN Africa, the Romeo Must Die actor decided to drop out of the film “abruptly” and the reason was never mentioned. To silence Li’s exit, Vin Diesel posts a picture with the replacement of Jet Li, from the set of the film, that is Donnie Yen.

Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
Vin Diesel and Deepika Padukone in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage

Diesel revealed Yen’s character name in the sequel as he wrote the caption on his Facebook post“Director, Xiang and Xander… Donnie Yen’s first day on set. Our global cast is simply amazing!” Nevertheless, Yen played an outstanding role in the film as fans enjoyed his portrayal and action scenes in the film., as the film earned $345 million at the worldwide box office.

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Donnie Yen is a Fan of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Physique

Donnie Yen is renowned for his martial arts films, and one would think that he is a lean guy because of the costumes he wears in the films. But he has a great physique, during an interview with Men’s Journal, he shared that it was the Italian Stallion and The Austrian Oak who got him into bodybuilding.

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Donnie Yen
Donnie Yen

“I got into bodybuilding as well because of the Rocky movies and Arnold Schwarzenegger. That was my first exposure to seeing a physique like that as a main character—and it was superhuman. I wanted to put on muscle because I was a little thin. I found out there was a Nautilus machine at the Chinatown Boys Club, so I would go there after all of my marital arts and boxing. I would just spend hours training in there and lifting weights.”

The John Wick: Chapter 4 actor also mentioned that he followed a unique workout routine so that he could be a “complete package,” and while following routines from his idols, he went a little old-school by infusing his workout with some Shaolin training.

Also Read: James Cameron Was Such a Cinematic Genius He Dreamt Up an Entire $2B Franchise While Under High Fever

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XXX: The Return of Xander Cage can be streamed on Paramount+.

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Written by Tushar Auddy

Tushar Auddy, Junior Content Writer. He has been in the entertainment industry for 3 years and is always on the lookout for a captivating story. He is a student of Linguistics and currently pursuing his Master's degree in the same field. He has a passion for literature that runs deep and loves nothing more than getting lost in a novel for hours on end. When he isn't reading, you'll find him capturing the beauty of language.