And while the role will go down as one of the best casting choices in the long-running franchise, it is interesting to note that Yen almost turned down the part because he didn’t want to be apart from his family, according to the South China Morning Post
“It was several months after I was approached for the part that I decided to take it up,” Yen was quoted as saying. “Because it would mean that I had to leave Hong Kong – and my children – for months. I couldn’t make up my mind at the beginning. But, of course, I feel lucky that I didn’t turn it down.”
Another reservation Yen had at the beginning was the nature of his acting. Wanting to know whether his character was a forced attempt at marketing at the huge Chinese market, he asked the film director candidly:
“When the director [Gareth Edwards] approached me, I began by asking, quite frankly, if it’s a real character, or if he’s only casting me based on commercial considerations for the [Chinese] market. Once he told me what my character was going to be like, and some of my lines, including the iconic ‘May the Force be with you’, I recognized the importance of my character.”
Thankfully he made the right choice and brought to life a new awesome Star Wars character that fans are sure to talk about in a long time.
While Chirrut Imwe did not wield a lightsaber, his wooden staff and slick moves were enough to defeat hordes of storm troopers who were unwise enough to attack. Yen, who choreographed most of his own action as Imwe, also revealed that he was the reason the character was made blind.
“They asked for my opinions after giving me the script, and I told them I thought the character could use some more distinctive characteristics,” he said.
“It’s very much consistent with the story of the film, because when you can’t see, you have to feel things with your heart … Martial arts is also about feeling with one’s heart,” Yen explained.
He noted, however, that fighting as a blind character was extra difficult.
“It was harder than if I couldn’t see,” he says. “If I couldn’t see, naturally I would convey the state of being blind. But when you have to play a blind person and you can see, it’s very difficult to do because you have visual illusions.”
He stated that weeks before filming began, he trained himself to imagine his surroundings to be pitch black even with his eyes open.
Yen also noted how his character shared some of his characteristics.
“It’s a big coincidence that this character does resemble me in that he’s very righteous, has strong principles, is very patriotic, is very loyal to his friends, and is also a great fighter,” he admitted. “It’s hard to avoid these characteristics when you watch my films.”
Reiterating how his casting in the movie was a great “sense of achievement,” Yen further explained:
“For a Hong Kong actor, and a Chinese actor, to be able to play such a significant role that is consistent with the spirit of the series – with the Force – it’s a very precious opportunity.”