Thursday, April 10, 2008

My Asian Persuasion: Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh was born Yang Zi Chong in Ipoh West Malaysia 6 August 1962. The woman has got an abounding supply of talent and I think she's one of the coolest persons in the world. One impressive point I need mention about her is that she performs her own stunts in her movies.

She enrolled in ballet classes at the tender age of 4 and like Ziyi Zhang drew upon this skill in order to perform her stunts. She too has not been trained in martial arts. She relies heavily on her dance moves as well as on-set trainers. How amazing are these women?

She won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant title and the Miss Moomba beauty pageant title in Melbourne, Australia in the early 1980s and was Malaysia's representative at the 1983 Miss World pageant in London.

She began her career in 1985. She married and retired from acting in 1988 but divorced in 1992 and has since returned to acting. She is best known to western audiences for her co-starring role alongside Pierce Brosnan in the 1997 James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies".

This is by far one of the best James Bond movies ever made! The chemistry between them both resonates throughout the movie and the action scenes were truly enjoyable and entertaining. Another role that was off the charts was the one she played in "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" in 2000.

Whoever decided to put Ziyi Zhang and Michelle in the same movie ripe with incredible action ought to be rewarded heavily. It was a stroke of pure genius! Can you tell that I am tickled pink by this? Just a little?

Yeoh owns her own production company, Mythical Films and is on a quest to find and mold new talent as well as find roles that have deeper meaning but will still allow her to perform incredible stunts.

One of the only female stars whom Jackie Chan lets do her own stunts.
A former Miss Malaysia, she got her start in acting in a commercial with Jackie Chan.

Fought her way to the top in the male-dominated genre of Hong Kong action films, where she has been known for years as the "queen of martial arts".

Has a Bachelor's Degree in Dance from the Royal Academy of Dance (London, England).

One of the highest paid Chinese-language actresses in the world.
Highest paid actress in Asia.

Released a single CD in 1993, "Love Quite Like a Comet", from her movie "Xin liu xing hu die jian" (Heroic Trio 2: Executioners) 1993.

She speaks 3 languages, English, Malay and Cantonese. However, she can't read Chinese and relies on pinyin (a system of phonetic notation) to pronounce words. In "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", she uses pinyin to recite her lines (with help from Mandarin speaking crew members) in Mandarin as she doesn't speak the language.

Personal Quotes:
"The reason why I decided to wait two years after the Bond movie, and to work with Ang Lee in a martial arts movie, is because I really believe that this genre deserves more respect and dignity than it's ever been given. Before, people saw it as a fairy tale; they felt they could take it easy. But it shouldn't be about that. It's so steeped in our culture, it should have more depth to it. It's never easy to find that balance, when it's such a magical type of film, to make you accept our soaring to the skies... it was a risk, but when we did this movie, it was for a Western audience."

"Learning how to walk in a kimono was an art form in itself - if you didn't learn to do it properly it was like dragging a dead cat across the floor! We had to walk with a piece of paper between your knees and a tea tray balanced on your head."

"In Asia, we constantly play Koreans, Malay, Chinese. We do not question that, as you do not question an Englishman playing an American or a German."

Upcoming movies:
Mulan (2008) (announced) (rumored)
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) (post-production) .... Zijuan... aka The Mummy 3 (USA: informal title) set for release 1 August (USA)
Babylon A.D. (2008) to be released 29 August (USA)
The Children of Huang Shi (2008) aka Escape from Huang Shi (Singapore: English title) was released in China 3 April. Check for release dates in other countries for all movies listed.

On April 19, 2001, Yeoh was awarded the Darjah Datuk Paduka Mahkota Perak (DPMP), which carries the title 'Dato' by Sultan Azlan Shah, the Sultan of Perak, her home state, in recognition of the fame she brought to the state. The award was given in conjunction with the Sultan's 73rd birthday celebrations. Dato is an honorary Malaysian title somewhat like a British knighthood, and it lies below the ranks of Dato' Seri, Tan Sri and Tun.

On November 25, 2002, Michelle Yeoh was honored as The Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) (Cultural Achievement) by JCI (Junior Chamber International).
On 23 April 2007 President Jacques Chirac awarded her Knight of the Legion of Honour of France. The decoration was presented to her in a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on
3 October 2007.