Donnie Yen is famous for playing the eponymous Wing Chun kung fu master in the Ip-Man movies, but he originally didn’t want to do IP Man 3. The Ip-Man the film franchise began with the 2008 original Ip-Man, and the series as a whole was one of the most groundbreaking martial arts movie franchises ever made. In fact, his first two films were such successes that Yen originally saw no benefit in going any further with them.
In a interview 2009Yen said he was unlikely to return because Ip-Man in upcoming movies, stating, “Because IPs Man 2 will unquestionably become a classic, surpassing the first. I think it’s best to finish something when it’s perfect and leave a good memory.Yen left some wiggle room for a potential comeback, also saying, “Maybe after a few years, when the director finds a new angle, we can talk about it later.”
After the martial arts movie titan Donnie Yen boarded IP Man 3he said his close association with the role was what prompted his return, with Yen commenting“But no matter where I go, no one knows me as Donnie Yen. They call me Ip Man. So I decided to play the role once again to fulfill everyone’s wishes.” As IP Man 3 reunited, Ip Man’s most famous student Bruce Lee was given a much bigger presence in the story with Danny Chan in the role, while Mike Tyson also joined the film.
Yen’s observation that Ip Man had gained popularity as the subject of historical martial arts films in Chinese and Hong Kong cinema is very accurate. 2010, the same year as IP Man 2would also see another Ip Man movie coming in The legend is born – Ip Man, with Dennis To in the role. 2013 will see the release of Wong Kar-wai the grand master, which starred Tony Leung as Ip Man, while many other Ip Man movies and TV series would also see the light of day in later years. With Ip Man becoming such a widely seen figure, it’s understandable that Yen had reservations about continuing the role.
IP Man 3 would not ultimately be the end of the series, with the spin-off Master Z: The Legacy of Ip Man dedicated to the character of Max Zhang Cheung Tin-chi released in late 2018. Yen also returned one last time in the 2019 sequel Ip Man 4: The Finale, pitting him against fellow action movie star Scott Adkins, who was his last time in the role with Ip Man who ultimately died at the end. With the Ip-Man series finally over, Yen’s performance is warmly remembered around the world as an unforgettable portrayal of a wise kung fu master whose skills were absolutely legendary.
Despite the many movies and shows based on Ip Man that would emerge after the debut of Ip-Man, Donnie Yen left the most definitive signature with his long-running portrayal of Bruce Lee’s Wing Chun sifu. Yen is still pursuing his career in action films, notably with the John Wick universe as one of the martial artists of John Wick: Chapter 4. Despite his initial reluctance to return as Ip Man, Donnie Yen’s performance in IP Man 3—and later in Ip Man 4: The Final—showed why he was the perfect man for the role of Wing Chun grandmaster.
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