Donnie Yen got John Wick name changed to avoid Asian stereotypes

donnie yen
Here's why Donnie Yen got John Wick name changedLaurent Viteur - Getty Images

John Wick: Chapter 4's Donnie Yen has revealed he contributed to fleshing out his character, steering the script away from Asian stereotypes.

The actor and martial artist is in the cast of the upcoming instalment of Keanu Reeves' neo-noir saga. Yen, who plays assassin Caine, has recently shared that his role was originally a bit different.

"The name was Shang or Chang," Yen told GQ, explaining he made sure his hitman would have a "normal name".

donnie yen as caine in john wick chapter 4

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"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?" he continued.

Costume design is an essential contribution to the world-building of the John Wick universe, populated with impeccably stylish assassins. Yen wanted his Caine to exude this effortless coolness and not necessarily wear something stereotypically associated with Asian heroes.

"Then the wardrobe again— oh, mandarin collars. Why is everything so generic? This is a John Wick movie," he said. "Everybody's supposed to be cool and fashionable. Why can't he look cool and fashionable?"

It looks like the actor had his wish granted as Caine can be seen sporting a dark suit in the character poster, a redesigned look he said was inspired by Bruce Lee.

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Chad Stahelski's saga isn't the first instance in which Yen stepped in to aid Asian character study.

His Rogue One hero Chirrut Îmwe was initially a generic, very serious martial art warrior.

"One thing I pointed out is he was a stereotype. Typical master. Doesn't smile," Yen said, adding he asked to make him blind and incorporate jokes and humour to become a more rounded character.

John Wick: Chapter Four opens in cinemas on March 24. The previous John Wick movies are available to buy or rent on Prime Video, plus DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD.

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