Vincent Zhao breaks his silence – Reveals what went down while shooting Special Identity

Vincent Zhao criticizing Donnie Yen’s work attitude and ethics in a recent interview

A while back, Vincent Zhao held a press conference giving out a statement of his reason for leaving the production of Special Identity produced, action directed, and starring Donnie Yen – claiming that the production crew was responsible for the script changes and that they violated the contractual terms which Zhao had applied for and that would only be approved by him if any changes were to be made. While he blamed the production crew, he still respected Donnie for recommending him to the investors and for inviting him for the part of the main villain. He declared that there were no disputes between the two during the shooting.

However, in a recent interview conducted on March 15, Zhao broke his silence and revealed more insights on what actually happened and now puts all blame on Donnie’s ways of working on a production. According to Zhao, when they first met at the press conference for the film they did not share any deep conversations and cited personality differences as Donnie often responded in a curt manner without follow up. He also pointed out he was informed by a friend that Donnie possessed a habit of frequently modifying scripts. “While I anticipated our scenes together, I was also anxious about his script revision habits. I included a clause in my filming contract stipulating that script revisions need to be approved by me. This was a rare practice and the first time I inserted such a clause in my contract.”

Zhao expressed that he has never worked under such filming conditions before, and that the production crew often argued vehemently on the set. He agreed to work on Special Identity due to the fact that it was the first time he would work with Donnie in a film. Filming started on February 8th and Zhao recounted that on the second day of filming, Donnie and Clarence Fok had an argument on set. “I understand Cantonese and the overall dispute involved problems with the characterizations. Clarence did not wish to make the changes while Donnie demanded that the script changes were to be made.”

Zhao was asked to return to his hotel upon which he waited for 7 hours before receiving notice to return to the filming set. Significant changes in the script were apparent by then in which the characters’ personalities changed dramatically. Zhao adds: “One scene featured a dialogue exchange between Donnie and I where my character originally suppressed his in the exchange. After modification, Donnie’s character now suppressed me verbally. Fine, I put up with it at the time!” Zhao waited in the hotel for 6 days before receiving another filming notice. Around February 15th the script was revised to reflect dramatic changes to Zhao’s character, without prior discussion with him. “Previously, Special Identity featured two main leads. After the script changes, many of my scenes were removed. I was completely altered into a supporting character! The most critical change was towards the personality of my character, who was originally very cold but it was altered to a person who now slaps another man’s butt! I decided that I couldn’t work in the project anymore!”

Zhao revealed that his role had significant screen time but after rounds of script revisions, his role was diminished to a supporting role. “They violated the filming contract! On February 27th, I sought out the film’s producer, director, and Donnie to discuss the direction of the script.” During this meeting, Zhao also requested that the production crew issue a statement clarifying recent negative rumors regarding his poor work ethics. “The people present at the meeting agreed to issue a statement on my behalf except Donnie, who did not say anything.” Even the film’s financiers had personally agreed to issue the statement to clear Zhao’s name. However, Zhao was notified that Donnie did not agree to issue the statement the following day. Zhao decided to issue his own personal statement denying the allegations, while thinking he would return to the crew to discuss the script further. On February 29th, the production crew issued a press release stating that Zhao had officially stepped away from Special Identity, an unilateral decision made without discussions with Zhao which further provoked his anger. When asked what reaction he would expect from Donnie by revealing his filming experience in Special Identity, Zhao said: “I don’t care about his reaction as I am speaking the truth! I considered for a long time before deciding to step forward. Stepping forward this time required my utmost courage! In the past many actors were unwilling to speak up because they were afraid of being blacklisted, and would not receive future jobs. I will stand in an upright manner, unafraid of being blacklisted. Even if this means not acting in films anymore I have to reveal the truth! China’s film industry is not up to standard, a lot of things are finalized by the domineering forces. What purpose does a contract serve?”

Zhao’s claims have been responded by the production crew. Clarence Fok stood behind Donnie praising him as a loyal person. Donnie had rejected two film projects in order to film Special Identity, and did not receive extra pay for 6 months due to the delay in the filming schedule. Clarence admitted that Donnie had scolded an action choreographer for not possessing serious work ethics. Clarence denied that there were frequent arguments on the set, stating: “When a group of men are filming an action movie together – is there a need to say ‘please’ all the time? Does the use of rough words mean that we were arguing? I and cinematographer Peter Pau get along well with Donnie.” Clarence reiterated that Donnie had insisted on casting Zhao. “As for the filming clauses in Zhao’s contract, both Donnie and I were not aware of the terms.” Peter also complimented Donnie for his professionalism. Producer Cheung Mong noted that the script was not perfect thus had to be continuously revised. Cheung claimed that the script revisions did not originate from Donnie but rather from the production crew. “It is impossible that Zhao has not experienced such script revisions in his acting career. It was unimaginable that he possessed a complete uncooperative stance so it was impossible for the production crew to work with him!”

Regarding Zhao’s allegations that his fighting scenes with Donnie were cut, Cheung noted that it was an unnecessary worry as these scenes were the film’s major selling point. “I can tell you that from the beginning until the end that Donnie insisted on using Zhao. Otherwise the production crew would not have agreed to Zhao’s domineering filming contract!” Cheung also admitted that he had released public details regarding the high hotel expenses that Zhao had incurred, which Zhao noted that he would rather receive lower pay and nicer hotel accommodations. Zhao further challenged and countered why the production crew made an issue out of his hotel accommodations after filming had occurred. Meanwhile, Donnie is avoiding the public statements and wishes not to make any comments. His representative: “There is no need for Donnie to respond to statements that do not represent the facts. It was Donnie who had initially recommended casting Zhao in Special Identity. When Donnie heard that Zhao refused filming notices, Donnie went to investigate the matter. If Zhao did in fact make such statements as referenced in the news, Donnie is extremely disappointed.”