Donnie Yen Urged ‘John Wick 4’ Director Chad Stahelski to Change Character’s Stereotypical Name
2nd March 2023

Donnie Yen didn’t want to perpetuate “generic”-sounding stereotypes onscreen.

The star of “John Wick: Chapter 4” revealed that he asked director Chad Stahelski to change his character’s name to a more “normal” moniker of Caine.

“The name was Shang or Chang,” Yen told GQ. “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?”

And the suggested changes didn’t just stop at the character’s name: Yen asked the “John Wick” team to reimagine his role on a sartorial level.

“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,” Yen said. “Why can’t he look cool and fashionable?”

With Stahelski’s approval, Yen turned his character Caine into an homage of Bruce Lee. “Overall, I enjoyed making the film,” he said, adding that he had a “very respectful experience working on ‘John Wick.’”

Similarly, Best Actress nominee Michelle Yeoh shared in December 2022 that she almost quit “Everything Everywhere All at Once” over her lead character’s name. During Variety’s Actors on Actors series, Yeoh said she did not like the name Michelle Wang for her character.

“The only thing I said to [directors the Daniels] was, ‘The character cannot be called Michelle Wang.’ They’re like, ‘But why? It’s so you,’” Yeoh said. “I’m like, ‘No, I’m not an Asian immigrant mother who’s running a laundromat. She needs her own voice.’ That was the only thing. I’m like, ‘If you don’t change the name, I’m not coming in.’”

The name was changed to Evelyn Wang instead.

Both Yeoh and Yen have extensive real-life martial arts experience. Heading into his first “John Wick” franchise film, Yen is bringing decades of expertise in fighting arts including Japanese karate and Korean taekwondo.

“John Wick: Chapter 4” stunt coordinator and second unit director Scott Rogers teased to Total Film that Yen “brings ‘master level’ fighting abilities” to his films, meaning “he is not an actor that you have to train for each specific fight. He is a great actor who is also a trained fighter. His ability to enhance the choreography through his own creativity is world class. When you add that to the many years of John Wick training that Keanu Reeves has invested, you end up with something very special.”

Yen’s co-star Keanu Reeves added that the fourth installment “has the most action of any of the [‘John Wick’] films, which is saying a lot.” He added, “It’s more by a good margin. It’s a big show.”

For all the details on “John Wick: Chapter 4,” click here.

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