Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng, PSM is a Malaysian actress who rose to fame in 1990s Hong Kong action films and is best known internationally for her roles in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, along with recent international English films and series. She is credited as Michelle Khan in her early Hong Kong films.
Born in Ipoh, Malaysia, she won the Miss Malaysia pageant of 1983 at the age of 20. She later achieved fame in the early 1990s after starring in a series of Hong Kong action films in which she performed her own stunts, such as Yes, Madam, ' and Holy Weapon. She was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
She has appeared in many English, Mandarin and Cantonese language films. Her other works include Memoirs of a Geisha, Reign of Assassins, ', ' and The Lady, in which she portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2018, she starred in the American romantic comedy-drama film, Crazy Rich Asians. She has also co-starred in the 2018 film ' and the 2019 film Last Christmas.
The film review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes ranked her the greatest action heroine of all time in 2008. In 1997, she was chosen by People as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World", and in 2009 the same magazine listed her as one of the "35 All-Time Screen Beauties"—the only Asian actress to make the list.
Early life and educationShe was born in Ipoh, Malaysia, to a local ethnic Malaysian Chinese family of Hokkien and Cantonese descent. Her parents are Janet Yeoh and Yeoh Kian Teik, a lawyer and MCA politician, as well as the man behind the popular express bus service, Sri Maju.
She was keen on dance from an early age, beginning ballet at the age of four. She studied at Main Convent Ipoh, an all-girls secondary school in Ipoh, as a primary student. At the age of 15, she moved with her parents to the United Kingdom, where she was enrolled in a boarding school. Yeoh later studied at the UK's Royal Academy of Dance in London, majoring in ballet. However, a spinal injury prevented her from becoming a professional ballet dancer, and she transferred her attention to choreography and other arts. She later received a BA degree in Creative Arts with a minor in Drama.
CareerIn 1983, at the age of 20, Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant. Later that year, she traveled to Australia where she won another pair of beauty pageants; "Queen of the Pacific" and "Miss Moomba". She was also Malaysia's representative at the Miss World 1983 pageant in London. From there, she appeared in a television commercial with Jackie Chan which caught the attention of a fledgling Hong Kong film production company, D&B Films.
Yeoh started her film career acting in action and martial arts films, where she did most of her own stunts. Already with her third credit, Yes, Madam, she was given a main role. She was credited as Michelle Khan in these earlier films. This alias was chosen by D&B studio who thought it might be more marketable to international and western audiences. She reverted to Yeoh when she started her Hollywood career with Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. The D&B Group in Hong Kong was run by the businessman Dickson Poon. Yeoh married Poon in 1987 and retired from acting.
Yeoh returned to acting with ' after having divorced Poon. She then appeared in The Heroic Trio, and the Yuen Woo-ping films Tai Chi Master and Wing Chun in 1993 and 1994, respectively.
In 1997 she was cast as Wai Lin in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. Brosnan was impressed, describing her as a "wonderful actress" who was "serious and committed about her work". He referred to her as a "female James Bond" in reference to her combat abilities. She wanted to perform her own stunts but was prevented because director Roger Spottiswoode considered it too dangerous. Nevertheless, she performed all of her own fighting scenes. Yeoh was then recruited by Ang Lee to star as Yu Shu Lien in the Chinese language martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The film was shot in various provinces around China. Yeoh had grown up speaking English and Malay, before learning Cantonese. She spoke little Mandarin, and learned the Mandarin lines for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon phonetically. The film was an international success, and earned Yeoh a BAFTA 2000 nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
In 2002, she produced her first English film, The Touch, through her own production company, Mythical Films. In 2005, Yeoh starred as the graceful Mameha in the film adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha, and she continued her English-language work in 2007 with Sunshine. In 2008, Michelle Yeoh also starred in fantasy action film ' with Brendan Fraser and Jet Li.
In October 2011, she was chosen by Guerlain to be its skincare ambassador. Yeoh will play a role in strengthening the French cosmetics company's relationship with Asia.
Apart from action films, she is famous for playing nationalists in two biopics. In 1997, she played Soong Ai-ling in the award-winning The Soong Sisters. In 2011, she portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson's The Lady. Yeoh was blacklisted by the Burmese government allegedly because of her participation in The Lady; she was refused entry to Myanmar on 22 June 2011 and was deported on the same day.
Yeoh did not branch out into television until 2015, with her first role playing Mei Foster, wife to the British Ambassador to Thailand, and who is secretly a North Korean spy named Li-Na, on the fifth season of the Cinemax/Sky series Strike Back. In 2016, Yeoh was cast as Federation Captain Philippa Georgiou of the starship USS Shenzhou in the series , and recurs as Georgiou's "mirror" doppelganger in the second season.
In 2018, she played family matriarch Eleanor Young in Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians, a film adaptation of Kevin Kwan's book of the same name, opposite Constance Wu and Henry Golding. In 2019, she played Christmas themed-store owner "Santa" in Last Christmas, opposite Henry Golding and Emilia Clarke. The film was released on 8 November 2019, and was a box office success grossing over $121 million worldwide.
Personal lifeYeoh was married to Hong Kong entrepreneur Dickson Poon, owner of businesses such as Harvey Nichols and Charles Jourdan, from 1988 to 1992. In 1998, Yeoh was engaged to Alan Heldman, an American cardiologist. In 2004, she started dating Jean Todt, a leading figure in motor racing, and in July 2008 she confirmed her engagement to him during an interview with Craig Ferguson on CBS's The Late Late Show.
Yeoh is a Buddhist. In March 2008, she visited Vietnam to film a documentary for the Asian Injury Prevention Foundation. Yeoh is also a patron of the Save China's Tigers project committed to protect the endangered South China tiger.
Awards, honors and stylesIn 1999, she was a member of the jury at the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.
On 19 April 2001, Yeoh was awarded the Darjah Datuk Paduka Mahkota Perak, 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.
On 25 November 2002, she was honoured as The Outstanding Young People of the World by JCI.
On 23 April 2007, French President Jacques Chirac awarded Yeoh as Knight of the Legion of Honour. The decoration was presented to her in a ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on 3 October 2007. She was promoted to Officer of the same French Order by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 14 March 2012. The decoration was presented to her at a ceremony held at the president's official residence, the Élysée Palace on that day.
In 2011, she received a special award for her contribution to Malaysian cinema at 24th Malaysian Film Festival.
On 22 May 2012, she was awarded the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Perak which carries the title Dato' Seri during the investiture ceremony in conjunction with the Sultan of Perak Sultan Azlan Shah's birthday.
Michelle Yeoh received the Excellence in Asian Cinema award during the seventh annual Asian Film Awards in March 2013 in Hong Kong.
On 1 June 2013, she was awarded the Panglima Setia Mahkota which carries the title Tan Sri during the investiture ceremony in conjunction with the birthday of Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah.
On 30 November 2013, she presided as the Chief Guest at the International Film Festival of India.
On 12 February 2016 she was conferred France's Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award by the French government in Kuala Lumpur.
Honours of Malaysia
- * Commander of the Order of Loyalty to the Crown of Malaysia - Tan Sri
- * Knight Commander of the Order of the Perak State Crown - Dato'
- * Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Perak State Crown - Dato' Seri
- * Knight of the National Order of the Legion of Honour
- * Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour
- * Officier of the National Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
- * Commander of the National Order of the Legion of Honour
Awards and nominations
|1986||Yes, Madam||Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer|
|1998||Tomorrow Never Dies||MTV Movie Award for Best Fight|
|1998||The Soong Sisters||Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|2000||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||TFCA Award for Best Performance, Female|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Saturn Award for Best Actress|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||BAFTA Film Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Golden Horse Award for Best Actress|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||VFCC Award for Best Actress|
|2011||Reign of Assassins||Asian Film Award for Best Actress|
|2011||Reign of Assassins||People's Choice Award for Favorite Actress|
|2011||Reign of Assassins||Huabiao Film Award for Outstanding Abroad Actress|
|2018||Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television|
|2019||Crazy Rich Asians||The Asian Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema|