Dynamic Martial Arts

Stunt work with Donnie Yen

Okay, what is a stunt team doing in Germany? Why is Donnie Yyen directing here? What is "Der Puma"?

This is an insider's view of what happens behind the scenes of an action/production. Lets start from the beginning!

So the call went out to Hong Kong for a Kung Fu action director to come to Berlin Germany to help in the production of a new television series. This was a ground-breaking event in Germany and in Europe as well. The one who got the call was my buddy and hero Donnie Yen.

By now we have heard of Donnie Yen here in The U.S. Donnie is an innovator in the Martial arts movie circle. After budding as an actor he has spread his wings to the field of choreography and directing. He has had over 30 blockbusters such as "Legend of the Wolf", "Iron Monkey", "Ballistic Kiss". Recently in the U.S. he appeared in "Highlander 4- The Endgame". And his work as action director in "Blade II" is now being appreciated. Donnie was responsible for the remake and successful T.V. adaptation of "Fists of Fury" which ran 32 episodes and was one of the most successful TV productions in H.K. and then the world called.

First stop Germany.
"Der Puma" is a Nostro Films Production. The Germans are used to good stunt work and have filmed some of the best car stunts . In this case the producers wanted a show that would be heavy on the Martial Arts action and wanted to do it right. This was something totally different to them. In comes Donnie Yen. Mr. Yen brought his skills and stunt team to Berlin and for the locals it was let "Hong Kong Filmwork101" begin. The pilot movie was made first and included some of the best choreography caught on film especially for TV. The show received rave reviews. Now the Germans knew they were on to something big. The show was bought for its first season run a total of eight episodes were ordered up and the work began. There were issues of language and equipment differences. The locals were not used to the ways of these Hong Kong guys and visa versa the set was truly an international one there were Germans, Russians, Czech, Spaniards, English, Chinese, Japanese, Canadians, and Americans all working together. So many diverse people were involved that any directions from Donnie would have to go through a complex chain of translations. This made working slower than the norm. Donnie's stunt team included three Japanese Kenji Takanaka, Yuji Sirmomura and Yoshida Hiroyuki, a couple of Hong Kong stuntmen and a couple of Americans- Mike Woods and myself Kenny Perez. The sets were very raw and diverse.

The camera techniques were the type usually reserved for bigger movie productions. Donnie Yen made use of crane shots, steadi-cameras, and in some cases up to six cameras for one shot. There were gun battles, car chases, barroom fights, fire fights, pyrotechnic explosions, acrobatics, high falls, glass shattering and furniture destroying scenes, wirework, improvisational weapons and lots of powder to give impact effect during body strikes. The action was fast paced. In the end it was sewn together by the editor and Donnie. Creating a masterpiece of motion picture, martial arts and mayhem with the "Yen" seal of approval.

My job was stunt double for the main star Mickey Hardt, a very capable actor from Luxemburg. My previous most memorable stunt doubling job was for none other than “Jet Li” in the movie "Dragon fight", where I performed a double front kick with a back fall against his foe- actor Dik Wai. This was not the first time I worked with Donnie either. Our friendship began in China in 1980. We trained and lived together in Bei Jing learning under The coaches of the Bei Jing Team- Li Jun Fung, Wu Bin and Cheng Hui Kun.. Later on I was invited to work with Donnie in Hong Kong on the movie production, Mismatched Couples, directed by famous Director Yuen Wo Ping("Matrix", "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon") and the Yuen Clan. We lived together in an apartment in Mei Foo Sun Chuen district and yes we rocked that little Island. Back in those days we once had to really uses our skill on the set to fight off local territorial gang members who wanted to be paid for letting us film on their turf. Yuen Wo Ping true to his innovativeness was on that front line wielding a camera tripod as a weapon. It was then that I realized where he got his creative ideas and ingenious weapons.

Now a typical day of shooting would include. Rising early in the wee hours, get to the set, scarf down some German treats and coffee. Review the actions, pad up, wardrobe make up, and wigs, place the camera, and rehearse for the camera and director. Then put it all together. It usually took more than a few times to get it right for Donnie. Usually the first and second times ended up to be N.G.- no good. The stunts were difficult. Donnie's usual reaction included a few choice words and the unforgettable-"more power!" like a general calling out to his troop or a trainer calling out to his fighter. Donnie could make you dig down deeper for that extra bit of juice. A welcome lunch came, than more work and more coffee. We would finish after about 10 hours sometimes 16 hours. A late dinner at our favorite hangout Udegawa Restaurant, followed by a choreography meeting that would last till about 2:00 am. When it was finally lights out for a few hours sleep the pillow never felt so good. One good thing was that these Germans do not work weekends. That gave us time to explore Berlin- a beautiful city with beautiful sites.

A "Buff Stunt" and Mr. Michael Bornhuetter headed the local stunt crew. My stunts included hanging from wires to dive through an open hole on a buildings third floor and catch a falling victim. Hanging from the back of a speeding delivery truck whipping down the streets of Berlin Than proceed to battle on top of the vehicle A grand fight scene more intense was a battle in a warehouse that was set on fire, flames everywhere, firemen on standby. This scene took many days to complete because in between each take the fire had to be extinguished then the room had to be blown clear of smoke. A subway scene a prison scene a club scene and a classical dojo scene. Each scene was unique and always involved some sort of improvisational weapons - A pipe became a staff a pair of pots became double swords a shoe became a rope dart, chairs, tables, breakaway glass etc. get the picture? I got to show my Wu Shu skills in some scenes- a butterfly kick downing two bouncers, rope dart improve with a shoe on a rope some DiTan and some break dancing and tumbling skills Not to mention every now and than I took a beating for the star.

The team was always there to help each other with encouraging words and little things like a needed cup of water to rushing each other to the hospital. Our motto was safety first but there were injuries incurred on the set. Luckily no one was seriously injured or burned. Kenji Tanaka had an accident working on the rope dart scene when the action required the rope to entangle his foot and then being pulled up into the air causing him to be swept upward. His fall was a little bit over projected landing on his head. A slight concussion failed to keep this man down. His love for work or his honor at stake he was back flipping in two days. Yuji Shimomura another Japanese trained stuntman and aspiring director-(Push Luck) had a bit of bad luck during another fight scene when he flipped backward breaking his toes. In a cast for ten days, than a special shoe brought this tiger back roaring. Yoshida Hiroyuki, Mike Woods and myself suffered only minor cuts and bruises. Some of course considers these trophies. All in a days work for stuntmen. My Kung Fu/ Wu Shu skills tumbling and years of performing helped me out tremendously.

What we did was open a new door for German T.V. productions elevating the concept of action fighting. In the end everyone was very pleased. The directors were of course eager to learn much more secrets of Donnie Yen and his action/Kung Fu directing and the Bullet Stunt Team. Now they have to wait in line. Mr. Yen has a three-picture deal in the works with Miramax! I smell success.