Star Wars: It Was Donnie Yen's Idea for his Rogue One Character to Be Blind

As the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story promotional blitz kicks into high gear, the actors will start to talk about the film in earnest, revealing some more details about their characters, their experience in the Star Wars family, and giving fans even more reasons to be happy that another film in their favorite franchise is on the way this winter. Donnie Yen, who stars in the film as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind monk devoted to the study and worship of the Force, and is also one of two Asian main characters in the film. That's a first for Star Wars, despite one of the chief influences of the galaxy far, far away being Akira Kurosawa's samurai films.

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(Photo: Lucasfilm)

Yen is a martial arts master (his mother was a grandmaster of Tai Chi), and in China, a bonafide action star. He sent Mike Tyson to the hospital on the set of a movie (sure, it was a broken finger, but the legend still stands), and can play Chopin on the piano with ease and skill. With his wife Cissy Wang, he has a production company. And now, he's in Star Wars.

"Truthfully, I didn’t want to spend five months apart from my family, filming in London," Yen told Jet Set Magazine in a new profile interview. "I asked [my children], 'how do you feel about daddy doing Star Wars?' and they flipped out!" he said with a laugh.

That shouldn't come as much of a surprise - two of his children both dressed as Star Wars characters for Halloween this year. His daughter dressed as a First Order stormtrooper, and his young son, a self-professed Star Wars fanatic, dressed as dad's character in a custom Chirrut Îmwe costume.

When he's hired for a film, Yen says, "you're not just getting an actor; you are getting a choreographer, a director." He likens his input to his characters to that of Michael Jackson performing, singing, dancing, choreographing, and directing a film or video of his own work. Luckily, Rogue One director Gareth Edwards agreed with all that, and gave Yen the freedom to help create Chirrut Îmwe. It's a common narrative with Edwards, praised by those he works with as a "story first" and "character first" director, more concerned about actors finding their own truth than picking every moment for them.

"It was my idea to make him blind!" Yen revealed of Îmwe. He also said he's excited to have LEGO and other toy versions of himself, saying, "I think I might give them out as gifts."

Yen, like the others in the film, will keep his character's fate and details shrouded in mystery until the movie hits theaters, but did say he picks movies that he's "passionate about and challenge" him, and he thinks "mainly about the character."

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits US theaters December 16, 2016. Directed by Gareth Edwards, it's the first of the new standalone features from Lucasfilm and Disney, which take place outside the core "Skywalker Saga" of films noted by an Episode number. Rogue One tells the story of the small band of rebels, led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) that were tasked with stealing the plans to the first Death Star. The story spins directly off the opening crawl from the original Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. In that crawl, it read: "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet."

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