Grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
Classically trained pianist
Billed as Michael Ryan in his earlier films, until Asian Cop: High Voltage (1994), released in the Philippines.
Can speak fluent Cantonese, English and Mandarin. Can also speak casual Korean, since he learned it as a requirement for his character during the filming of Seven Swords (2005).
Brother of Chris Yen.
Current wife Cissy Wang was the winner of the Miss Chinese Toronto Pageant 2000. She also represented Toronto in 2001 for the Miss Chinese International Pageant.
His current wife Cissy Wang is 18 years his junior.
Has a son from a previous marriage.
Was sent to Beijing, China, to continue his martial arts training and avoid committing crimes with a street gang.
Sustained a heavy injury in his right shoulder while making Mismatched Couples (1985) which still affects him to this day.
A big fan of Bruce Lee. He was one of the auditionees for the title role in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993). Fist of Fury (1995) and Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen (2010) are dedicated to Lee.
Has a huge fanbase in Japan which has given him some opportunities to work behind the camera on not only movies but popular video games as well. He directed the cinematic intro sequence of Onimusha 3: Demon Siege (2004).
Well trained in various martial arts styles, including wushu, tae kwon do, kick-boxing and boxing.
Was supposed to co-star with Brandon Lee in a sequel to Legacy of Rage (1986) but Lee's departure back to the States led to the idea being scrapped.
Michelle Yeoh considers him to be the fastest martial artist she has ever worked with.
Turned down the role of the main villain in both Tai-Chi Master (1993) and The Legend of Drunken Master (1994) eventually played by Siu-Ho Chin and Ken Lo respectively.
A former member of Woo-Ping Yuen's Yuen Clan stunt team.
Daughter (2004) named Jasmine W. Yen.
Newborn son (2007) named James W. Yen.
Can also understand Shanghainese, because his wife's family is Shanghainese.
Was recommended to Yimou Zhang by Jet Li to play the role of Sky in Hero (2002). Yimou was desperate to look for a new actor to play the role after the original actor of choice was dismissed.
Turned down the following Hollywood films: Rush Hour 2 (2001) (Ziyi Zhang's character originally a male character), Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) (Chen Lo), The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) (Jade Warlord), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) (Emperor Han), The Expendables 2 (2012) (Nan Yu's character originally a male character replacing Yin Yang), and The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) (Poison Dagger).
Donnie Yen received the Star Asia Award before the screening of Dragon (2011) at the New York Asian Film Festival on Monday, July 9, 2012.
Started working on TV series in Hong Kong after offers for feature films slowly began diminishing for him in the mid 1990s.
Started collaborating with director Wilson Yip on various film projects as leading actor and action director in the mid 2000s after meeting each other in the late 1990s. Yen was asked a favor by Yip to help out Daniel Lee with coordinating action scenes for Moonlight Express (1999). Their collaborations have led to some of the finest Hong Kong action films made in last half of that decade.
After learning the Hong Kong style of action film-making from his mentor Woo-Ping Yuen, Yen developed a big interest in action choreographing fight scenes and started working behind the camera on various film projects in Hong Kong in mid 1990s.
Started working overseas as action director and small part actor on various film projects in early 2000s, in hope to learn more about film-making from different film markets and to achieve international success as an actor.
After more than two decades of working in Hong Kong, Yen finally got his major breakthrough in Ip Man (2008) and started being offered various big-budget projects by famous producers and directors in China and USA.
Cites Jet Li as his favorite among all martial arts actors he has worked with in his entire career.
Was part of a Chinatown gang (non-organized street gang) in Boston, MA, in his early years. Due to his profound background in practical martial arts, he had a reputation as a street brawler. While Yen's degree/mastery of overall fighting ability is unknown, there's one reported occasion that confirms him being an efficient martial artist/self-defender. According to news reports by Hong Kong news channels in the late 1990s, he went clubbing with his then girlfriend, Yee-Man Man, and once inside the nightclub his girlfriend got harassed by a troublesome gang who took an interest in her. Yen warned them of leaving them alone but to no success. As they got out, the gang followed them and proceeded to prevent Yen from intervening by attacking him. This resulted in Yen beating the assailants up in self-defense and getting arrested by the police but was released the next day. This incident is still known in Hong Kong to this day - with people bringing it up in discussions concerning real fights as well as in relation to comparing credible fighting skills of various Hong Kong martial arts actors.
Got into a feud with his mentor, Woo-Ping Yuen, during shooting of Wing Chun (1994). While the incident was officially never explained, some people believe it was creative differences over the fight choreography that caused them to part ways. However, Woo Ping revealed in a 2011 interview that their relationship is good now and they still keep in touch from time to time.
Is credited as the first martial arts actor/action director to incorporate modern MMA in Asian action cinema, starting with The Twins Effect (2003) and followed by SPL: Kill Zone (2005), Flash Point (2007), and Special ID (2013).
Donnie Yen was intended to be the lead actor for Another Meltdown (1998), Body Weapon (1999) and Fist Power (2000). But Donnie gave back the deposit money he was given by Jing Wong and worked on Legend of the Wolf (1997), Shanghai Affairs (1998), Ballistic Kiss (1998) and Der Puma - Kämpfer mit Herz (1999) instead. Jing replaced him with Wenzhuo Zhao.