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Donnie Yen says Monkey King performance inspired by watching his son play

In this Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 photo, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen gestures during an interview at a restaurant in Hong Kong. The action star plays the title role in the upcoming 3D film,

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In this Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 photo, Hong Kong action star Donnie Yen gestures during an interview at a restaurant in Hong Kong. The action star plays the title role in the upcoming 3D film, "The Monkey King," which is loosely based on the classic Chinese folktale, "Journey to the West," where the Monkey King accompanies a Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage to retrieve a sacred Buddhist script. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG - Actor Donnie Yen says his toddler son was his inspiration for his performance in "The Monkey King."

The action star plays the title role in the 3D film, "The Monkey King," loosely based on a classic Chinese folktale where the Monkey King accompanies a Buddhist monk on a pilgrimage to retrieve a sacred Buddhist script.

The movie opens in Hong Kong on Thursday and in the rest of China on Friday in a bid to capture box office sales at the start of the Chinese New Year holiday period.

It is a popular story that has been told numerous times on the small and big screen, and many actors have played the part before.

But instead of looking to those past performances, Yen watched his young son, who was 3 years old at the time, playing at home.

"He was hopping around from couches to couches, this sofa to that sofa, very active," Yen said. "I saw my son running around, jumping around, just acting like any other active child and I said to myself 'you know, this is the essence that I wanted to kind of preserve' ... the Monkey King's, his purity, his youth, his childhood-like, his — the whole innocence of his character."

While it was easy to get inspiration from his son, it was not as much fun for Yen to put on the full-body monkey suit with prosthetic make up.

"The hardest part was that once you have that full on make up, you can't eat, you can't eat normally ... and you can only drink liquids out of a straw," he said in an interview.

Yen also denied rumours the he was no longer involved in the sequel to Ang Lee's classic martial arts film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."

But he said the script is still being written.

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