Teddy Chan’s epic kung fu actioner BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS makes its debut in theaters across Chinese territories in Asia and parts of Oceania this week. (Taiwan will have to wait until December 24.) The film brings Donnie Yen, now the highest paid actor in China, together with an all-star cast in a thrilling story of how a band of kung fu fighters band together to protect revolutionary Dr. Sun Yat-sen from an elaborate assassination attempt in the heart of Hong Kong at the turn of the 20th century.
Yen and producers Peter Chan and Yu Dong were recently in Shanghai to promote the release by showcasing what is set to be one of the film’s highlights, a 10-minute action showstopper between Donnie Yen and Cung Le that begins with free-running and ends with an intense round of MMA-style fighting. (Scroll down for behind-the-scenes video previews of this sequence.)
The sequence ended up being a re-shoot where Yen, who worked without additional pay, took charge of the choreography and called back Cung Le after both actors agreed that the original sequence wasn’t good enough. For a week, the two feverishly worked with a team of 17 stuntmen to accomplish what originally took much longer to set up. Yen worked over 24 hours straight on the last day of the shoot in order to finish the sequence before Cung Le had to return to the U.S.
According to the always opinionated action star, the idea was to take advantage of the film’s unusually grand outdoor set to incorporate parkour into the sequence.
“When shooting this scene, I was thinking parkour is a very popular sport, and while it was shown in a James Bond film, it wasn’t done particularly well,” said Yen. “I told Peter Chan, ‘We’ve built such a gargantuan set [and] spent so much money. Why not shoot a graceful parkour fight scene?”
Speaking of Cung Le, Yen gave high praise for the MMA superstar’s screen fighting performance.
“It [was] like fighting a bull. Cung Le is the strongest opponent I have ever encountered in shooting action scenes, and because of his excellent martial arts skills and weight, I [had] to be extra careful.”
Shooting of this sequence was even harder on Yen because a day before it began, his grandmother had passed away where she live in Boston near Yen’s mother, wushu Master Bow Sim Mark. Because of his commitment to the shoot he was unable to attend her funeral. Yen admits he lost sleep as a result and became short-tempered.
On top of this, the free-running sequence aggravated an old waist injury Yen had previously suffered.
At 46, Donnie Yen may be the highest paid Chinese actor but I’d say he is earning every bit of it. I’d like to see Harrison Ford or Will Smith (at any age) try to pull off the physical performance Yen is going to deliver in BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS.
BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS Preview – Cung Le
BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS Preview – Donnie Yen vs. Cung Le
Bodyguards and Assassins (2009) • Cung Le • Donnie Yen • upcoming