Born this day in 1962
Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies
Michelle Yeoh was born in Ipoh, Malaysia and from an early age, Yeoh was interested in dance. She began ballet and was her major at the Royal Academy of Dance in London. An injury to her spine caused her to shift her course of study and she earned her B.A. degree in Creative Arts and a minor in Drama.
It is not difficult to see why she competed in beauty pageants where she won Miss Malaysia, Queen of the Pacific, and was Malaysia’s representative to the Miss World pageant. It was a television commercial with Jackie Chan, which changed Yeoh’s course in life, leading to her start in action and martial arts films (she did most of her own stunts) in 1985 and meeting Dickson Poon, who she would marry.
Unfortunately, the marriage did not last. Yeoh, who retired from acting she married Poon, thankfully returned to acting in 1992. She was reunited with Chan in Police Story 3: Super Cop (1993) and that marked her comeback. She received wider fame and recognition when she was cast as Wai Lin opposite Pierce Brosnan in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and in 2000 when she starred with Chow Yun-fat in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Brosnan was complimentary about Yeoh by referring to her as a “female James Bond” because she completed all of her own fighting sequences and would have done her own stunts too except that director Roger Spottiswoode felt it would have been dangerous (probably not a risk the franchise wanted to take either!).
Yeoh has continued to be an acting force with Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Sunshine (2007) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008). Of note, she made news when she was deported from Burma, apparently for her role of Aung San Suu Kyi, in The Lady (2011, Luc Besson).
In addition to acting, Yeoh wrote, produced and starred in The Touch (2002). Siblings find themselves called to action to help a Buddhist monk retrieve a precious artifact. It won two awards for cinematography and production. Recently, she will star in the fifth season of the television series Strike Back as Mei Foster/Li-Na and she will be reprising her role as Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend (2016).
Personally, I think that Yeoh is one of the most graceful and skilled actors in the business today. I felt that her Wai Lin and Brosnan’s Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies was one of the best matched outings for Brosnan in the franchise. Yeoh was brilliant as a strong leading lady, which are roles she excels in and are memorable. I thought her character was strong all the way through except at the point in the film where Lin almost drowned at the climax, making her the damsel in distress so that Bond could rescue her. Otherwise, the chemistry and interaction between the two actors was excellent.
I have watched a few of Yeoh’s other roles over the years, and if you haven’t yet watched some of her other films, you are missing out. I suggest watching her again in Tomorrow Never Dies, but check out Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the more recent space horror film, Sunshine, for instance. You will not be disappointed in this star that shines brightly today!
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