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Michelle Yeoh Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (3)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (18)  | Personal Quotes (104)

Overview (3)

Born in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Birth NameYeoh Chu-Kheng
Height 5' 4" (1.63 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Born as Yang Zi Qiong in the mining town of Ipoh, in West Malaysia, in the lunar year of the Tiger, Michelle is the daughter of Janet Yeoh and Yeoh Kian Teik, a lawyer and politician. She is of Han Chinese (Hokkien) descent, and spoke English and Malay before Chinese. A ballet dancer since age 4, she moved to London, England to study at the Royal Academy as a teenager. After a brief dance career, she won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant title in her native country and the Miss Moomba beauty pageant title in Melbourne, Australia in the early 1980s. Her first on camera work was a 1984 commercial with martial arts star Jackie Chan. In 1985, she began making action movies with D&B Films of Hong Kong. She was first billed as Michelle Khan, then later, Michelle Yeoh. Never a trained martial artist, she relied on her dance discipline and her on-set trainers to prepare for her martial arts action scenes.

She uses many dance moves in her films. She still does most of her own stunts and has been injured many times. Ironically, she still cannot read Chinese and she has to have Chinese script read to her. In 1988, she married wealthy D&B Films executive Dickson Poon and retired from acting. Even though they divorced in 1992, she is close to Poon's second wife and a godmother to Poon's daughter. When she returned to acting, she became very popular to Chinese audiences and she became known to western audiences through her co-starring roles in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and in the phenomenally successful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) aka Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' directed by Ang Lee. She turned down a role in a sequel to The Matrix (1999).

She has her own production company, Mythical Films and has trained with the Shen Yang Acrobatic team for her role in Tian mai zhuan qi (2002), an English language film she is both starring in and producing. She hopes to use her company to discover and nurture new film-making talent. She also wants to act in roles that combine both action and deeper spiritual themes.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Unknown author

Spouse (1)

Dickson Poon (February 1988 - 1992) ( divorced)

Trivia (18)

Chosen by "People" magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World. [1997]
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.
Miss Malaysia [1983]
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 (1993).
Surname, "Yeoh" is pronounced "yo".
She is currently engaged to Jean Todt, who became the President of Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile in 2009. [2008]
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 (2000), she uses pinyin to recite her lines (with help from Mandarin speaking crew members) in Mandarin as she doesn't speak the language.
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002.
In 2001, she was given the title of "dato'" by the Sultan of Perak, her native state. "Dato'" is an honorary Malaysian title somewhat like an English knighthood, and it lies below the ranks of "Dato' Seri," "Tan Sri" and "Tun."
Member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1999.
Was a very close friend to Anita Mui since early 1990s. She also hosted a memorial event for Mui in 2007.
In October 2007, was named a Chevalier of the French Legion d'Honneur, for her contributions to international culture.
Only the second Asian actress to play the major James Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). The first one was Mie Hama in You Only Live Twice (1967), thirty years earlier.

Personal Quotes (104)

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.
I prefer to be kicked four or five times well, you know, hard, than twenty or twenty five times not so good...
[on playing Aung San Suu Kyi in The Lady (2011)] If there is one thing I learned from this experience it's you need to believe in people, and their ability to grow and to change. You can never give up hope.
My career in the movie business began in Hong Kong, my heart has always been tied to Asia, and it is immensely gratifying to see international recognition for Asian cinema as a whole.
If you read a lot of Chinese literature, there has always been very strong women figures - warriors, swordswomen - who defended honor and loyalty with the men. So, it's not new to our culture - it's always been very much a part of it. It's good that now the Western audience would have a different image of the Chinese women.
I have been presented with roles with demand not just a physical ability but mental disciplines as well. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) was not so much about physical exertion... it was much more graceful and contained than that.
Wai Lin is the first Bond Girl who is on a par with Bond, someone who can match up with him mentally and physically. From the moment our characters see each other, there is a wariness and a recognition that this person is not who she or he seems to be.
I believe that the director is really the soul. It is a collaborative effort, but the director is the one who needs to have that vision. It could be a great script, but it starts from there. You need to have good material, at least, but if you don't have someone with vision, it's just words.
I have people who love me and people that I love and a man that I love. So in that sense, I feel that I'm pretty well rounded.
Martial arts is just practice. Being a geisha requires complete control.
To be a geisha, you have to have to an iron-clad layer around you - around your physical body and your heart.
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.
In many ways, I feel I'm still as physically fit as I was 20 years ago because I've always been athletic.
I have done many films across the globe and would love to be a part of Bollywood, but the script must have a strong character for me.
If I only get to play Malaysian roles, there wouldn't be very many roles for me to play.
When I watch myself on-screen, I always look for the flaws.
I grew up in Malaysia, and Bollywood is really big there. As a result, I've grown up watching a lot of Hindi movies.
When you love someone, you don't try to change them.
I don't like cutting my hair. I did that once, and my mum thought I was a boy.
India is a great talent pool of actors. I see Freida Pinto making it big in Hollywood, and I am sure many others can also make it.
I'm not a fashion victim, and I don't closely follow trends. I dress the way I feel comfortable because, at the end of the day, you have to be comfortable.
My mother is a very big cinema buff, so as a kid, we watched a lot of Indian and Malay films.
My grandmother had flawless skin just from using basic skincare - an old herbal remedy in the form of a white powder and cream. I don't actually know what was in it because when you're young, you're not interested in skincare, and I didn't want to walk around the house with a white face.
I stretch and do my squats when I brush my teeth.
This world belongs to all of us, and all sexes should be able to live in respect and harmony.
When men have a smile on their faces, that does a lot for me.
Let's empower men and help them take a stand to stop acts of violence against women.
I kick and punch quite hard, and it surprises people.
When a movie becomes very successful, it's automatic that people will start thinking a sequel, a prequel, a quel-quel.
I always thought of myself as James Bond.
As a producer, what you want to do is make the next hit. But you also want to lead the audience into wanting to watch different movies. You have to vary your content.
I thoroughly enjoy a good hot bath. That is my ultimate luxury.
You have to have integrity.
Your timing has to be very accurate. I've done a lot of wire work before. I can see that experience makes a big difference.
There is no guaranteed formula. And that's one of the interesting things about film making. You could put $115 million in, and it doesn't guarantee success.
There is so much we can do to save lives on our roads.
The Asia and the Pacific region is facing an epidemic of road death and injury, but we also have innovative Asian road safety solutions.
Every time you do a movie, it's important for your career, your reputation.
For an actress, everything is always fine - you are looked after, you have your trailer, and everything provided. But the crew are the ones out there in the wilds all the time, hours before and after us.
You never know whether the subject matter will click with the audience at that particular time. I wish there was a formula, you know, 'That plus that equals success.'
As producers, we can influence where the budget goes, but only the director really controls what tone, what type of movie you are trying to make.
'Crouching Tiger,' of course, was a very dramatic role for me, and the fighting was very serious.
As an actress, you know there are limitations on what you can do creatively.
Sometimes, being a girl away from home - it gets to you.
In a movie, that's the only time when you're allowed these kind of fantasies to be lived. Being able to look so cool and be able to fight five bad guys and take them down. When can you do that?
The beauty about being a producer is you sit there, and you explore ideas which become a passion, which slowly becomes a reality.
I'm terrible on the phone. I just text my friends and family and say, 'Hey, I'm in town.'
Body language is more fascinating to me than actual language.
It can only be true love when you enable your other half to be better, to be the person they're destined to be.
It's so important for me to do my own stunts. The sense of achievement is so immense. But the studios don't want to take the risk.
San Suu's story will always involve politics, but the essence is the love story.
Before you get into the mind, you have to inhabit the physicality. Body language is a great way of speaking.
It's very important for us all to understand that we are interconnected and we need to hold hands together, especially when the going gets tough.
We all learn every day, and that's the magic about film making.
On 'Far North,' we were always aware of being at the whim of mother nature. She's the biggest star in the film.
Martial arts is something you can learn or pick up and think you could do really well.
Some of the martial arts films, the motivation is about martial arts. That's where it's coming from. It is a visual, commercial film, to showcase the next stunt, the biggest thing. And character development becomes a side thing.
They won't take you seriously because you are a girl. These guys had to understand that you are just as tough as them, and you have to take them on.
Playing Aung San Suu Kyi was a journey in itself. She represents many things for many people and for many reasons. Although I have played many important roles in my life, I can say that this role has been a journey of self-realization.
I was struck by Suu Kyi's warmth and generosity. No matter how petite she looks, she exudes amazing strength. More than anything else, I felt like I already knew her, like she was an old friend, because I'd been watching her so intently, and she was exactly what I had figured she would be.
There might never be another 'Crouching Tiger.' There might be something that's even better than 'Crouching Tiger.'
Acting is not just impersonating your character.
In one take, I had to do 24 combat sequences, which is hard. It makes you think, 'I'd better get on my toes again.'
Why do we have 'Transformers 5 or 6?' Because young kids will go and see it four or five times.
Action shouldn't just be seeing all those crashes. You can blow up a cathedral; next time you blow up the Great Wall of China, and then what? But when you're in love with your characters, the smallest action becomes an important action.
Movies cater to what the audiences want.
I went to the Gobi Desert, even though I had no scenes there. This is the greatness of China, the landscape, even for us.
When you're a teenager, you could do a lot more crazy things, and your body recovers faster.
I believe all of us want to do good for our country.
I did ballet, piano and all that - my brother did martial arts, my passion.
I don't plan to go out and do action or not do action.
I love action films, and to be able to put together 'Silver Hawk' was so exciting.
I love my martial arts and action movies. They give another dimension to the acting world: the emotional plus the physical.
Jackie Chan is like a big bro to me.
I gravitate towards roles where women find strength in very difficult, uncompromising situations but maintain clarity in mind, discipline at heart, and a certain strength in spirit.
When someone acknowledges you for something that they think about you, it's a huge compliment.
Sometimes when I'm on the phone, someone will say, 'Yes, Mr. Yeoh.' And I'm thinking, 'I'm not Mr. Yeoh, man.'
Today, tomorrow and every day, we will see at least 2,000 young children killed or seriously injured on the world's roads. This is unacceptable, preventable, and we have to stop it. We have the vaccines for this disease: helmets, seat belts, speed enforcement, safe road design. We just need to use them.
The first one I did was an action film with Sammo Hung and George Lam, but I had the usual female role for that time: you know, damsel in distress, rescued by the hero.
Unfortunately, many parents reject helmets for their kids out of a mistaken perception that helmets are unsafe for children.
Every time I choose to do a movie, I make the decision because of what I think I can learn from it.
When I made my first film, it was just an adventure. But after my first movie, I guess I got more of a feeling of what was happening around me.
Playing a sinner is very liberating!
When it is real person, especially who means so much to millions of people, you have an obligation, you cannot take liberties, you cannot pretend to know. But we are telling the love story of Michael Aris and his wife, the story of a beautiful, lush country, and the emotions of a mother.
Raising awareness for Nepal was and still is an important role for me.
In Europe and America, you never see a director pick up a camera. They all sit behind monitors.
When you face up to bad things in the past, the most important thing is not to allow them to happen today or in the future, and as storytellers, we must play our part in that.
I have very supportive parents who said, 'Go and do what you want to do. Home is always here for you, and if you don't like it out there, come back. You can always do something different.' So when you have an option like that, you are able to choose roles or choose the things you want to be in.
With an award like the Asian Film Awards, we've sent a message saying that 'Asian Cinema is here, it matters, and more importantly, we are all part of the same fraternity!' The AFA is truly, then, an award for Asia, by Asia.
We have to make movies where we do not think this is for the American market or this is for the Chinese market. We have to make a good movie that anyone would just want to sit down and watch because love, language, culture transcend everything.
If you were ever a ballerina, you know the pain: just to be able to look like it's all so light, but when they take off their shoes, it's all bloody.
It's very important that I'm approaching a character that I've either not played before, or I can give it a different take.
I think that learning Burmese has to have been one of the most challenging things that I have had to do for a movie.
'The Lady' is an incredible love story about how a family was cut off from each other, about sacrifice, about the ability to put the needs of million of people before your own.
I want to be there for all those who are left behind in this world, whether it's because they are born poor, born a woman, or born in an area affected by devastation.
I've taken this year to concentrate fully on the promotion of 'The Lady.' This movie has been so meaningful; until we have premiered in every part of the world and encouraged as many people as possible to shine the spotlight on the Burmese people and Daw Suu, I will not have a next project.
I had an amazing teacher, who was Burmese, and she was living in Paris at the time, and she is one of very few who doesn't actually receive a credit in the film because she still has family over there.
It's our responsibility as filmmakers to tell a story that's a human drama.
It was like baptism by fire. There was no school for studying acting. You just have to take it upon yourself to learn from your peers. It's about opening your eyes, listening, and watching.
It's all choreographed; it's a routine. So I told everyone I really wanted to try fighting in action films. I had no stunt experience, but I had the dance background, and I was very agile and coordinated. And the best thing about being a newcomer to acting is you can afford to try new things.
As an actor, you can't just imitate someone. You have to get under her skin.
I gathered as much reading material about Aung San Suu Kyi and about Burma as I could. And I read every article and every book she had written. I also had 200 hours of footage of her to watch. I tried to discover who were her heroes and where he desire and strength to pursue democracy in a non-violent fashion came from.

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