9 Surprising Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Michelle Yeoh

Yeoh attended the Royal Academy of Dance in London as a teenager.

Michelle Yeoh in 1997.

Hector Mata/Getty Staff

The actress is now best known for her acting chops and mastery of martial arts, but that wasn’t always the case. Growing up, Yeoh practiced ballet and eventually attended the Royal Academy of Dance in London at age 15. But a back injury to her ended the possibility of a ballet career and she finally turned to acting.

She won the Miss Malaysia title in 1983.

Michelle Yeoh at the 1983 Miss Malaysia pageant.

Michelle Yeoh won the 1983 Miss Malaysia pageant.

The Graham Norton Show

When Yeoh was 21, her mother entered her in the 1983 Miss Malaysia beauty pageant, where Yeoh ultimately won the grand title.

In a February interview on “The Graham Norton ShowYeoh said that he only agreed to compete in the pageant to appease his mother.

“I did it to shut her up, because she wouldn’t stop for that,” Yeoh explained. “So we had a deal. If I do this, you’ll never do something like this again.”

He once considered quitting acting after a serious injury on set.

michelle yes today

TPG/fake images

Yeoh told Elle last october who had once considered giving up acting.

While filming the Cantonese movie “The Stunt Woman” in 1996, she was injured during filming and nearly broke her back, which led her to question her chosen career.

“I was in the hospital and my friends came in and said, ‘What are you doing, girl?'” Yeoh recalled. “You’re lying there and you’re like, ‘Okay, maybe it’s time to think about something else. Do I go back to school? Do I do this or that?’

Quentin Tarantino, who was a huge fan of Yeoh, visited her while she was recovering. She broke down her favorite action sequences frame by frame, which she says renewed her love for acting.

“I thought to myself, I love this job,” Yeoh added. “I’m not going to give it up. I’m just going to find ways to make it safer for myself.”

He phonetically learned his lines for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”.

Hidden Dragon Crouching Tiger

Directed by Ang Lee.

Sony Pictures release

The 2000 film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” proved challenging for Yeoh for several reasons. Not only were the stunts demanding at times, but his character also spoke Mandarin, a group of Chinese dialects the actor didn’t speak in real life.

To get over that, yeah learned his lines, written in a historical style, phonetically, according to The New York Times. The film’s Mandarin-speaking team also stepped in to help Yeoh and other actors with pronunciation when necessary.

Jackie Chan saved his life while performing a stunt in “Supercop.”

Jackie Chan

Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

Yeoh had a brush with death while filming a stunt during the 1992 movie “Supercop,” co-starring Jackie Chan. The stunt in question involved Yeoh’s character, Inspector Jessica Yang, dangling from the side of a pickup truck as it sped through traffic-filled streets.

Yeoh was supposed to fall out of the back of the truck and onto a car, but that’s not exactly what happened.

“Everything went wrong”, she told GQ. “The windshield didn’t shatter. The things that were supposed to [break], it did not. So Jackie couldn’t control me. When you watch, he looks at the outtakes, he climbed up the windshield and tried to hold on to me.”

Chan tried to grab her, but only managed to catch part of her shirt as she slid off the side of the car.

“While rolling, if he hadn’t given me that little extra yank, I would have landed on my head first, and that would have been the disaster of my life,” he recalled.

Yeoh was initially unhappy with the “Crazy Rich Asians” script.

Eleanor Young Crazy Rich Asians

Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor Young in “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Warner Bros.

Not everything written in the “Crazy Rich Asians” script adaptation made it to the big screen. Part of this had to do with some insightful input from Yeoh, who wanted some changes to be made to his character Eleanor Young.

As the actor explained during an appearance on stage at Deadline’s The Contenders event in 2018, she was initially unhappy with the film’s script, because her character was written as very “nasty, mean” and “not at all likeable”.

“I don’t think Eleanor came from that motivation,” she said. “She comes from the love of her son and what it takes for her to be the wife and the strength that is needed when you put your family’s needs before your own.”

Director Jon M. Chu rewrote the script with Yeoh’s comments in mind.

“‘I know all the key points you’re talking about,’ he told me and I changed my mind,” Yeoh added. “They rewrote the script with an understanding of what it means to have strength for all the women who were in the movie.”

Mostly, she receives scripts intended for men.

Michelle Yeoh and Jackie Chan

Michelle Yeoh in “Everything Everywhere, All At Once” and Jackie Chan.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images/A24

While Hollywood is making strides when it comes to gender and ethnic diversity, it has a long way to go. Many of the scripts Yeoh receives these days, for example, are intended for men, the actor he recently told MSNBC.

When directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert wrote “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” they actually had Jackie Chan in mind to play the lead and Yeoh as his wife. But when Chan couldn’t do the project, Kwan and Scheinert refocused the film on Yeoh.

“As an Asian woman, those kinds of roles where you as an ordinary woman have the opportunity to be extraordinary, that’s a precious gem,” Yeoh added. “And when I read it, all the years that I’ve trained as an actor, they give me the opportunity on this film to show you what I’m capable of. So, it was amazing to get that.”

Co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert asked Yeoh to regain his martial arts prowess for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, winners of the Best Director award for 'Everything Everywhere All at Once,' pose in the press room during the 95th Annual Academy Awards at Ovation Hollywood on March 12, 2023 in Hollywood, California.

Daniel Kwan (left) and Daniel Scheinert win best director for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at the Academy Awards on March 12, 2023.

Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

For “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, Kwan and Scheinert actually wanted Yeoh to scale back a bit on her martial arts prowess, because her character, at least in some incarnations, was not a martial arts expert.

“In ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, I am the mentor,” the actor said TODAY. “In this one, the Danielses came up to me and said, ‘She’s Evelyn Wang. She has no idea what she’s doing.’ Her hands know what she’s doing, because she jumped into the other universe and acquired her ability and jumped back. Her hands are doing all these crazy things, and my face is like, ‘What the hell am I doing?'”

She and her mother are still very close.

Janet Yeoh, mother of Michelle Yeoh, celebrates after her daughter won the best actress category during the 95th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, as seen at a live event at a cinema in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Monday March 13, 2023.

Janet Yeoh, mother of Michelle Yeoh, celebrates after her daughter won the best actress category during the 95th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, as seen at a live event at a cinema in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Monday March 13, 2023.

Vincent Thian/AP

Yeoh and his mother Janet remain close after all these years. like the actor said TODAYher mother even gives her fashion advice.

“If you go to the Oscars, you shouldn’t wear pants,” Yeoh recalled her mother telling her. “When you wear pants, you look short.”

Shortly after Yeoh made history by becoming the first Asian actor to win a Best Actress Oscar on March 12, he FaceTimed his mother, who was at an Oscars party in Malaysia with family and friends. The two blew kisses.

“I love my daughter so much, and she has made Malaysia proud,” Janet said after the Oscars. according to AP.

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