An Interview with Michelle Yeoh : One of Asia’s Biggest Film Stars

FILM 'The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor' (2008). MICHELLE YEOH as Sorceress Zi Yuan in an all-new adventure that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the spectacular Himalayas.

Michelle Yeoh has been making movies since 1984, making cameos in a few Sammo Hung movies such as Owl Vs Bumbo and Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars.

Shortly afterwards see started to show everyone what she can really do. Aside from being a great martial artist on screen,  Michelle Yeoh also does her own stunts. Some of her very best stunts can be seen in movies such as Yes, Madam, Magnificent Warriors and Police Story 3Supercop (with Jackie Chan).

Michelle Yeoh in action : Police Story : Supercop
Michelle Yeoh in action : Police Story : Supercop

Other highlights in her amazing film career include Tai Chi Master with Kung Fu legend Jet Li and  Wing Chun with Donnie Yen , both choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping. In 2000, she appeared in the critically acclaimed and ground breaking Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which this week sees the release of it’s long awaited sequel : Sword of Destiny.

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In 2013, Michelle Yeoh received the Excellence in Asian Cinema Award at the 7th annual Asian Film Awards in Hong Kong.

We recently sat down with Michelle Yeoh to discuss Sword of Destiny , her reunion with Yuen Woo Ping  and her future plans.


Conducted by our dear friend David Vo on behalf of AsianMoviePulse 

David Vo : It’s been 16 years since the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, what was it that convinced you to return and play Yu Shen Lien again ?

Michelle Yeoh : What finally hit me was when Harvey  (Harvey Weinstein ) called and he said “I have to do this movie with you, I can’t do this movie without”.

After the huge success (of the original Crouching Tiger), everyone talked about the sequel and prequels and maybe in a way it’s a blessing in disguise that time as passed because the shadow of such a iconic film is huge and people always love to compare. Is the sequel going to be better, is it going to be bigger, is it going to be this or that . But guess what, Sword of Destiny is a stand alone film.

Its a story on its own but it’s told by a character that you know (Yu Shen Lien ) a very very interesting character, and one that I was interested to reprise.

Michelle Yeoh As Yu Shen Lien
Michelle Yeoh As Yu Shen Lien (Sword of Destiny)

Because time had passed and because at the time when you last saw her she was in a very tragic moment; still forgiving and hoping that this young girl ( Zhang Ziyi) would live a good life, and then what happens to her.

For me this film was a chance for the audience to see that she had now become the enlightened warrior that she always wanted to be. She has a chance in this story to find redemption, to find love again, to have the happy ending  she deserves.

You know, she is one of the most compassionate characters I have ever played, but what was very fascinating was the story she’s telling about the wuxia world. In the first one you don’t really enter that world, we only talked about that world; But this film takes you really into what is this world of power , revenge  and warriors who are willing to lay down their lives for a code. For loyalty you know , for a promise.

You know, I would love to really meet these warriors today. Where are these people, you know, in these times  of need. We need heroes, we need  people who believe that the right thing is to stand up and even if it costs you , you know…  the ultimate price. 

crouchingtigerhiddendragon

What is fascinating is that , I have master Yuen Woo Ping a big mentor to me , who I believe is the grandmaster of the wuxia world, because he has lived , breathed ,directed and been involved in as many wuxia movies as there as been made – since the time of the Shaw Brothers.

For Harvey to bring in a creative team in support and to work together with Master Yuen, like the ying and the yang, like the east and the west, in perfect harmony.

It’s the culture we  understand so well , but it is the culture that we would like to share with the rest of the world. but to present it in such a way , that (the west) can embrace it like the way it should be.

So this was a very interesting way that he (Harvey) presented it and I felt that “I wanted to know the story ” and (remember) the story has always been there. It’s part of the books  that were written by Wang Dulu. It was a story that deserved to be told about these great warriors.

CrouchingTigerBooks
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Novel which the films are based on was orginally written by Wang Dulu

David Vo : Speaking of Woo Ping,  It’s been like over 20 years since you , Woo Ping and Donnie Yen were together in one film  ( Wing Chun ) , so how was it to reunite on set again after so many years ?

Michelle Yeoh : It was easy . I’ve worked with Master Yuen over the last few years as well  . Every time he calls , I can never say  no to him. Even to do a cameo in one of his films (True Legend). He’s always got me in his mind and I’ve always got him in my heart so you know it’s very easy.

And then when you work with someone like with Donnie who’s so well versed with not just the martial arts but this genre of film makes it even easier.

Like there’s no need for further discussion, you know. it is what it is right. We would look at each other and  there is no need to say anything. it is understood.

And it make’s it fun. We can relax, as we have great confidence in each others abilities and work so yes it was easy.

It was too easy please don’t tell anyone hahaha.

DonnieMIchaelleWoPing

David Vo :  How does it compare filming the first one in Chinese  and this one in English ?

Michelle Yeoh : It was easier, I didn’t really read Chinese . So Chow (Chow Yun Fat) and myself had such a difficult time because you know , I had to do Pinyin ( the official phonetic system for transcribing the Mandarin pronunciations of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet ) for all my lines, his lines so I could understand what he was saying .

It was more work , to put it bluntly .Because the script  ( Sword of Destiny ) was written in English it was much easier, I could read the script myself and I could discuss the nuances of the words myself. In that sense it was easier to work on this film.

But what I hope is that this film can transcend the language

But what I hope is that this film can transcend the language. Nowadays when we watch movies or TV stories, Marco Polo 2  maybe  it should all be in Italian right ? or all the Mongolians should be  speaking Mongolian ? But at the end of the day it’s English which is the universal language that everyone can be speaking together.

David Vo : Our Fans heard that you had just finished filming with Jason Statham on Mechanic : Resurrection, Can you give us any little insights into that ?

Michelle Yeoh : He’s fun, he’s very good at what he does . I actually only have a cameo role in that film , I really wanted to be able to do more because you know , Jessica Alba and him we had a nice time filming , we were in Thailand . I only really had about two weeks with them which was too short you know.

So I played the reliable buddy, that when he’s in trouble he needs to go to.

Michelle Yeoh in the Strike Back

David Vo : We were hoping for you to have had a big role in that film

Michelle Yeoh :  I know,  I know . I think alot of people wanted that to have happened but maybe next time.

David Vo :  Another big question fans keep asking. Is there any chance of another Police Story with Jackie Chan ?

Michelle Yeoh : Ha, I’ll have to talk to him. He’s been so busy . He’s working none stop. He’s very very hard working . I’ll ask him , no we had so much fun (Supercop) working on that but that was tough work.

David Vo : Right, It really shows on screen

Michelle Yeoh : O my god, right . We were crazy . That was when we were young and crazy.   Now we’re old and crazy hahaa.

David Vo : Other than the Mechanic, is there anything else you are working on?

Michelle Yeoh : I Just finished Marco Polo season 2 which will be coming out in June. And then  I did a movie with Ridley Scott and his son was the director. It’s called Morgan.

David Vo : Is it a full on action film ?

Michelle Yeoh : It’s a sci-fi thriller but not set in space. Its quiet full on drama.

David Vo : Being from the Vietnamese community , I was very interested by the fact that Veronica Ngo was in this film . Can you tell us a little bit about whatever scenes you had with her?

Michelle Yeoh : Fortunately for her I didn’t have any scenes with her , else I would have kicked her ass hahaah . She’s the one who gets to fight with everyone else. I was very jealous of that.  She was very good at what she does. You know she’s a full fledged  martial arts right. so having her on board was interesting but understanding I didn’t have any scenes with her.


Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon : Sword of Destiny is released on Netflix from 26th February