The many faces of Michelle Yeoh

The many faces of Michelle Yeoh

With the 95th Academy Awards just right in the corner, it’s already a win for Asian representation as Malaysian icon, Michelle Yeoh, makes history by being the very first Asian Best Actress nominee.

Yeoh, 60, was recently casted by A24 in the American absurdist comedy-drama-adventure/sci-fi film “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” The film also happens to be nominated for 11 Oscars.

Yeoh has become a household name in Hong Kong’s colorful action cinema during the ‘80s and ‘90s where she starred in several films with Jackie Chan while doing her own stunts. From classics like “Magnificent Warriors” to “Tai Chi Master,” Yeoh had to wait decades before being casted as a star of a major Hollywood production before crossing over to more recent films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”

In this article, we’ll be exploring Yeoh’s most noteworthy characters in some of her biggest films (not in any order):

A) Yu Shu Lien, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000)

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was one of the most successful wuxia films in cinema. Directed by Ang Lee, the story is set in the 19th century Qing Dynasty China where Master Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) lends his sweetheart, Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh), his sword, Green Destiny. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” would end up winning over 40 awards internationally including Best Actress in a Leading Role for Yeoh at the 2001 British Academy Film Awards.

B) Mameha, “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005)

Directed by Rob Marshall based on the book of the same title by Arthur Golden, the story begins with Chiyo (Suzuka Ohgo), a nine-year-old girl, being sold to a geisha house in the 1920s. There, she is made into a slave while the house’s ruling hierarchy assesses her suitability to serve men who come and pay for conversations or musical presentations. Yeoh displays her acting prowess as a well-established, cold-hearted geisha that exudes poise and grace while training Sayuri (Ziyi Zhang). The film would later win three Oscars including Best Costume Design.

C) Soothsayer, “Kung Fu Panda 2” (2011)

The “Kung Fu Panda” franchise has become legendary in the eyes of millions of fans around the world. The second installment of the franchise contained a darker tone. Along with his friends and fellow kung fu masters—the Furious Five—Po (Jack Black) defends the Valley of Peace as the Dragon Warrior. Po’s fantastic new life is jeopardized by a frightening villain, who has ambitions to utilize a weapon of great power to eradicate the martial arts and rule China. Guiding him through the process was Michelle Yeoh’s Soothsayer, who was an elderly goat who used to serve under Lord Shen, providing a particular balance for the darker tones of the story.

D) Eleanor Sung-Young, “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018)

Directed by Jon M. Chu, this contemporary romantic comedy, based on a global bestseller of the same title by Kevin Kwan, took the world by storm after displaying the opulence and power of contemporary Asian dynasties in Singapore while featuring a star-studded all-Asian cast—a first in 25 years. Here, Michelle Yeoh plays the character Eleanor Sung-Young, Nick Young’s domineering mother who also happens to be the film’s quasi-antagonist.

E) Fok Ming-ming, “Magnificent Warriors” (1987)

Directed by David Chung, “Magnificent Warriors” is a 1987 Hong Kong martial arts action adventure film about an adventurer (Yeoh) and a con man (Richard Ng) plot against the Japanese and their occupation of China during the 1930s. Here, Yeoh plays Fok Ming-ming, a Chinese agent tasked with high profile missions. This was Hong Kong’s attempt to blend “Indiana Jones” adventures with martial arts.

F) Wai Lin, “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997)

Yeoh has also been part of the iconic “James Bond” franchise during “Tomorrow Never Dies” in 1997. Yeoh plays the role of Wai Lin, the first Chinese female protagonist in a Bond film. She has received critical acclaim, being widely regarded as one of the best Bond girls in the series.

G) Ying Nan, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)”

Yeoh played the character Ying Nan in “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” a title belonging to the legendary Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is known to produce interconnected films that easily dominate the box office upon release. In Shang-Chi, Yeoh plays Ying Nan, the aunt of Shang-Chi (Simu Liu) and Xialing (Meng’er Zhang) on their mother’s side.

H) Evelyn Quan Wang, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022)

Yeoh stars in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” which is up for 11 nominations in the upcoming 95th Academy Awards. Yeoh plays the role of the cantankerous laundromat owner Evelyn Quan Wang who discovers that she must connect with parallel universe variants of herself to prevent an omnipotent being from destroying the entirety of the multiverse. S


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