The Truth About Donnie Yen's Past Financial Problems

Today Donnie Yen is listed as being worth $40 million, reports Celebrity Net Worth. As he goes to pains to point out, however, this wasn't always the case. In a 2019 interview with Taiwan GQ, cited by the South China Morning Post, Yen tells of the days in 1997 when he had only 100 Hong Kong dollars left, which today would be with $12 US.

He had just released the film Legend of the Wolf, for which he starred, produced, and directed. In 2015, Jayne Stars, an entertainment site that focuses on Hong Kong, reported how the film forced him to borrow money from loan sharks, and that he asked his production company for meals. "Although the company rented a flat for us and I shared it with my colleagues, I didn't have much money and I had most of my meals at the film set because it was free," Yen explained. 

By 2019, however, Yen's fortunes had turned: "I can't elaborate [on that time of financial difficulty] because it was such a long time ago, I don't feel it anymore. Now I just look back at my past with a smile." Even by 2002 — before his now legendary status as Ip Man — he had choreographed fight scenes for and had a cameo in Highlander: Endgame and Blade II. Jet Li asked for Yen to star across from him in HeroDebts were far behind him.

The Donnie Yen Story

As you might have noticed, however, the story of Yen's financial difficulties came up in two separate pieces. This is not simply due to the vulture-like nature of some media, but also because Yen emphasizes the story.

In 2013, he gave a separate interview to the South China Morning Post. The reporter, Edmund Lee, feels compelled to point out that Yen "appears obliged these days to emphasize his humility at every opportunity." He points this out because, true to form, Yen brings up these issues to answer Lee's question about upcoming films: "I hope the audience can see the hardship I endured and not just the halo on me. The career path of Yen Ji-dan is not as smooth as people might imagine. They don't know the time when I had only HK$100 in the bank." As opposed to self-aggrandizement or romanticizing the artistic struggle, Lee takes this near-pathological need to confess as Yen's desire to appear normal — neither an egomaniac nor the world's strongest man, though perhaps he emphasizes this a tad too often.

In an attempt to push this narrative of struggle and perseverance, which also defines the Ip Man movies nicely, Yen has also called his new production studio Superhero Films: "You may wonder if I'm going to make superhero films, but, no, it's actually a metaphor." Perhaps the metaphor is to inspire others to pursue their passion, to continue struggling to fulfill their dreams.