From going bust to blockbuster: Donnie Yen's failed movie investments once left him with less than $20

Donnie Yen (seen here with his wife) may be a superstar now, but he once had less than $20 to his name.
PHOTO: Instagram/Donnie Yen

Martial arts movie master Donnie Yen wasn't always dishing out blockbuster hits.

In a speech at the recent award ceremony for the 2022 Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area International Film Marketing Certificate course, Donnie revealed that failed movie investments once left him with only HK$100 (S$17.40) in his bank account.

The 59-year-old veteran has over 40 years of experience under his belt and spent 17 years in the film industry when back-to-back box office washouts left him deep in the red, he shared.

Said Donnie: "At that time, I only had HK$100 in my bank account, which dealt a big blow to me. I couldn't make any money and I was so frustrated. I asked myself if I entered the wrong business and considered quitting."

"Fortunately, I didn't leave the industry and persisted in pursuing my dreams," he said, adding that he was saved by the bell when the right opportunities came his way. 

For the aspiring filmmakers present at the ceremony, Donnie also gave a few words of advice: "No matter how much you enjoy filming, you can't do it without funds and market demand, so it's right to study this course."

According to Donnie, funding for the films he's produced since then have all come from the pockets of other people, not him.

So what exactly were the box office flops that left Donnie on the ropes?

Hong Kong media outlet HK01 reported that Donnie set up his own film company Bullet Films in 1997 and produced two films, Legend of the Wolf (1997) and Ballistic Kiss (1998).

Both films performed poorly at the box office despite being directed by and starring Donnie.

Reportedly, these films only netted HK$800,000 each at the box office.

Donnie later recovered from his losses, choreographing fights for iconic martial arts films both in Hong Kong and abroad, notably Blade II (2002) and Shanghai Knights (2003). 

In 2008, he then took on the role of Ip Man in the titular film series and has become a household name since.

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khooyihang@asiaone.com