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Creator / Michelle Yeoh

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"As an actor, you hope to find roles that are challenging to you as an artist. Then if you are truly blessed, you will find that it also carries a message that you can impart to your audience."

Born in Malaysia, Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng (杨紫琼, Yang Zi Qiong in Hanyu Pinyin), or with her full federal honour title, Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato' Seri Michelle Yeoh PSM (born August 6, 1962), is a Malaysian actress and martial artist of Chinese descent, and one of the most famous modern actresses to come out of East Asia.

She has worked in the Hong Kong film industry for over four decades, starring alongside such actors as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Chow Yun-fat. To Western audiences, she is best known for her roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Tomorrow Never Dies, Memoirs of a Geisha, Crazy Rich Asians and Everything Everywhere All at Once. She also starred in Jackie Chan's Police Story 3 (aka Super Cop) as well as Heroic Trio, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Star Trek: Discovery.

Unlike other Hong Kong action stars, Yeoh is not a formally trained martial artist, coming instead from a ballet background. She took her experience to learn on-set the specific styles that every film demanded, and over time she developed into a soundly credible martial arts star thanks to her natural elegance and coordination. Her ability to do stunts has also been highly praised by Jackie Chan of all people, whom Yeoh considers a big brother due to their career together.

Among Yeoh's accolades, she was ranked as one of Time's 100 most influential people of the world in 2022, as well as their Icon of the Year, and she is the first Malaysian woman and the first self-identified Asian woman to be nominated for and win the Academy Award for Best Actressnote , winning it in 2023 for her role as Evelyn Quan Wang in Everything Everywhere All at Once.

Selected filmography:

She provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: She often plays female martial artists and is quite skilled in real life. She's a contemporary of Jackie Freakin' Chan, and you'd be hard pressed to find another actress with her caliber of badassery.
    • She's this on a meta level as well; according to her, she helped change Chan's mind on women.
      Interviewer: Is it true [Chan] thinks women belong in the kitchen rather than in action movies?
      Yeoh: He used to, until I kicked his butt.
  • Badass Longcoat: Sports one in Silver Hawk (no relation) as the title motorcycling vigilante.
  • Banned in China: She's been banned from Burma for portraying Aung San Suu Kyi (a Burmese politician) in a biographical movie.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty!: The public seems to think that she played the snake charmer in that one memorable scene from The Karate Kid remake, but this is not the case. The snake charmer is played by little-known Chinese actress Xiaofei Zhou, who costarred with Yeoh in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny.
  • Breakout Character:
    • Police Story 3 / Super Cop starred her character, who was the Sidekick of Jackie's character in the previous movie. She was so popular with audiences, her character had a spinoff movie, Super Cop 2.
    • Also, a sequel to Tomorrow Never Dies was planned with her character Colonel Wai Lin in mind but it never came to fruition for some reason. Similar efforts to work her into a role in Die Another Day also fell through after early drafts.
  • The Captain: In Star Trek: Discovery, she played Captain Philippa Georgiou of the U.S.S. Shenzhou.
  • Dance Battler: She has no formal martial arts training but trained as a dancer, allowing her to use her natural gracefulness and agility in fights.
  • Dark Action Girl: Often played this role when she was younger.
  • Dead Star Walking: In Star Trek: Discovery, her character was killed off in the second episode after being promoted as a lead role in the show's pre-broadcast publicity. Then subverted when she plays a major role in the final third of the first season as the character's Mirror Universe duplicate, who is still alive at the end of the season and comes back as an agent of Section 31.
  • Distaff Counterpart: She is often seen as the female Jackie Chan since she does her own stunts, just like Jackie.
  • The Emperor: She returned to Star Trek: Discovery as the Terran Emperor of the Mirror Universe.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: For Supercop, yes. Subverted at the end of Ah Kam, which only elicits wincing as you watch the result of her stunt Gone Horribly Wrong.
  • Instant Expert: She never had a formal martial arts training, but you would never say it from watching her films. When she started her career, she put herself to learn the business from everybody she could learn from and turned out to be just that good.
  • Machete Mayhem: In several kung fu-heavy works (particularly in Wuxia films) her weapon tends to be any variation of dao.
  • Method Acting: Yeoh, who grew up in an English/Malay-speaking household, also spent a year learning Mandarin for her role in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
  • No Stunt Double: She did all of her own stunts in her action movies.
  • Playing Against Type:
    • She played the Soothsayer in Kung Fu Panda 2, a wise old woman who doesn't kick ass and take names, but just snarks at the Big Bad.
    • In Strike Back: Legacy, she plays the British ambassador's wife. She's also a mole for the North Korean Office 39 and kills her husband.
    • In Sunshine she's a milquetoast botanist who is anti-climatically stabbed in the back.
    • In Crazy Rich Asians, she's the no-nonsense matriarch of the Young family, one of the richest families in Singapore, who dislikes her son's girlfriend for her commoner background.
  • Those Two Actors: Starred alongside Jet Li in 3 films, Tai Chi Master (where they play allies), Fearless (where they didn't share any screen-time) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (where they play enemies).
  • Shaped Like Itself: When asked about her fighting style.
    Yeoh: It's a Michelle thing. I didn't have to learn one particular style. When you are doing an action sequence, there is not one style. Also, the traditional styles look too dated... It would not work in a street situation. I learned all the basics moves, the stance, the kick. And then you improvise on film.
  • Typecasting: In recent times, whenever there's a need for an ass-kicking Lady of War in big budget Hollywood films or TV series, she's there.