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When Yen decided to return to the United States, he made a side-trip to Hong Kong, where he met action choreographer Yuen Woo-ping.
Yen finally started taekwondo at around the age of sixteen. His mother is a soprano, in addition to being a martial arts teacher in Boston, while his father is a violinist.
In 2011, Yen revealed that he was venturing into other genres of movies and had taken up two comedy roles in a row, in All's Well, Ends Well 2011 and All's Well, Ends Well 2012, and would be working with Carina Lau in the former and Sandra Ng in the latter.
Both films obtained huge critical and box-office success and proved that Yen's versatility as an actor.
In August 2011, while Yen was on a vacation with his family in the United States, he reportedly received an invitation by producer Avi Lerner to star in The Expendables 2.
In 1997, Yen started the production company Bullet Films, and made his directorial debut in Legend of the Wolf (1997) and Ballistic Kiss (1998), in which he played the lead character. Films produced by his own production company and directed by him were critically acclaimed but did not do well at the box office.
Both films were featured at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.
Later that year, Yen co-starred with Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue in Wilson Yip's Dragon Tiger Gate, an adaptation of Wong Yuk-long's manhua series Oriental Heroes.
Yen choreographed most of the fight animation in the 2004 video game Onimusha 3, which featured actors Takeshi Kaneshiro and Jean Reno.
Yen continued to be active in Hong Kong cinema in the 2000s, starring as Chu Zhaonan in Tsui Hark's wuxia epic film Seven Swords, and as Ma Kwun in Wilson Yip's brutal crime drama film SPL: Sha Po Lang in 2005.