Yeoh at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival
6 August 1962
|Other names||Michelle Khan|
(m. 1988; div. 1992)
|Partner(s)||Jean Todt (2004–present)|
|Parent(s)||Yeoh Kian Teik (father)
Janet Yeoh (mother)
|United Nations Global Road Safety Ambassador|
12 April 2011
Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng (/ˈjoʊ/; born 6 August 1962), better known by her stage name Michelle Yeoh, is a Malaysian actress, best known internationally for starring in popular 1990s Hong Kong action films, the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and the Chinese-language martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
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 (1985), Police Story 3: Supercop (1992) and Holy Weapon (1993). She was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress for her work in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
She has appeared in many Cantonese, English and Mandarin-language films. Her other works include Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Reign of Assassins (2010), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016), Star Trek: Discovery (2017) and The Lady (2011), in which she portrayed Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2018, she starred in the American romantic comedy-drama film, Crazy Rich Asians.
The film critic 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 education
Yeoh is ethnic Malaysian Chinese. She was born in Ipoh, Malaysia, to a local Malaysian Chinese family of mixed Hokkien and Cantonese descent. Her parents are Janet Yeoh and Yeoh Kian Teik, a lawyer and MCA politician.
She was keen on dance from an early age, beginning ballet at the age of four. 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 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.
In 1983, at the age of 20, Yeoh won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant. She represented Malaysia at the Queen of the Pacific 1983 beauty pageant which was held in Australia and won the crown. While in Melbourne, she also won the Miss Moomba title. 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 such as Yes, Madam in 1985, after which she did most of her own stunts. 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. Yeoh later preferred using her real name.
The D&B Group in Hong Kong was run by the businessman Dickson Poon. Yeoh married Poon in 1987 and retired from acting.
Return to acting
In 1992, Yeoh and Dickson Poon divorced and Yeoh returned to acting. Yeoh’s performance in Police Story 3: Super Cop (1992) marked her comeback to film. She acted in The Heroic Trio in 1993, and the Yuen Woo-ping films Tai Chi Master and Wing Chun in 1994.
She played Wai Lin in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997). 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 earn Yeoh a BAFTA 2000 nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Thereafter, she was offered the role of Seraph in the two sequels to The Matrix, but she could not accept due to a scheduling conflict (the Matrix writers then changed Seraph into a male character and cast Collin Chou in the 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 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor 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 has also recently branched out into television, as it was announced in September 2014 that she had accepted her first television role on the fifth and final season of Strike Back. Yeoh plays the role of Mei Foster, wife to the British Ambassador to Thailand, and who is secretly a North Korean spy named Li-Na.
In 2016, Yeoh was cast as Federation Captain Philippa Georgiou of the starship USS Shenzhou in the series Star Trek: Discovery. 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.
Yeoh 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 Dr. 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 (AIPF). Yeoh is also a patron of the Save China’s Tigers project committed to protect the endangered South China tiger.
Awards, honours and styles
On 19 April 2001, Yeoh was awarded the Darjah Datuk Paduka Mahkota Perak (DPMP), 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 23 April 2007, French President Jacques Chirac awarded Yeoh as Knight of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur). 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 (Officier de la Légion d’honneur) 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 Elysee Palace on that day.
In 2011, she received a special award for her contribution to Malaysian cinema at Malaysian Film Festival (FFM 24).
On 22 May 2012, she was awarded the Darjah Seri Paduka Mahkota Perak (SPMP) 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 on March 2013 in Hong Kong.
On 1 June 2013, she was awarded the Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) 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.
Honours of Malaysia
- Malaysia :
- Perak :
- France :
|1984||The Owl vs Bombo||Miss Yeung|
|1985||Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars||Judo instructor|
|1985||Yes, Madam||Inspector Ng||Nominated—Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer|
|1986||Royal Warriors||Michelle Yip||a.k.a. Wong ga jin si|
|1987||Magnificent Warriors||Fok Ming-Ming|
|1987||Easy Money||Michelle Yeung||a.k.a. Tong tian da dao|
|1992||Police Story 3: Super Cop||Inspector Jessica Yang|
|1993||The Heroic Trio||Ching / Invisible Woman / Number 3|
|1993||Butterfly and Sword||Lady Ko|
|1993||Holy Weapon||Ching Sze / To Col Ching|
|1993||Once a Cop||Jessica Yang|
|1993||Tai Chi Master||Siu Lin|
|1994||Shaolin Popey 2 – Messy Temple||Ah King||a.k.a. Shao Lin xiao zi II: Xin wu long yuan|
|1994||Wonder Seven||Ying||a.k.a. 7 jin gong|
|1994||Wing Chun||Yim Wing-Chun|
|1996||The Stunt Woman||Ah Kam||a.k.a. A Jin de gu shi|
|1997||The Soong Sisters||Soong Ai-ling/Madam Kung||Nominated—Hong Kong Film Award for Best Supporting Actress|
|1997||Tomorrow Never Dies||Wai Lin||Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Fight|
|1999||Moonlight Express||Sis||a.k.a. Sing yuet tung wa|
|2000||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Yu Shu Lien||Nominated—TFCA Award for Best Performance, Female
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Actress
Nominated—BAFTA Film Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Nominated—Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team
Nominated—Golden Horse Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress
Nominated—VFCC Award for Best Actress
|2002||The Touch||Pak Yin Fay|
|2004||Silver Hawk||Lulu Wong/The Silver Hawk||Executive producer, producer|
|2005||Memoirs of a Geisha||Mameha|
|2006||Fearless||Ms. Yang||Director’s cut only|
|2008||The Children of Huang Shi||Mrs. Wang|
|2008||Babylon A.D.||Sister Rebeka|
|2008||The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor||Zi Yuan|
|2010||True Legend||Sister Yu|
|2010||Reign of Assassins||Zeng Jing||Chinese title Jianyu a.k.a. Jianyu Jianghu
Nominated—Asian Film Award for Best Actress
Nominated—People’s Choice Award for Favorite Actress
Nominated—Huabiao Film Award for Outstanding Abroad Actress
|2011||Kung Fu Panda 2||Soothsayer||Voice|
|2011||The Lady||Aung San Suu Kyi||Biographical film about the Nobel laureate|
|2012||Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey||Documentary，executive producer|
|2016||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny||Yu Shu Lien|
|2016||Morgan||Dr. Lui Cheng|
|2017||Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2||Aleta Ogord||Cameo|
|2018||Crazy Rich Asians||Eleanor Young|
|2018||Master Z: The Ip Man Legacy||Sis Ha|
|2015||Strike Back||Mei Foster/Li-Na||Recurring (7 episodes)|
|2016||Marco Polo||Lotus||7 episodes|
|2017–present||Star Trek: Discovery||Captain Philippa Georgiou/Emperor Philippa Georgiou (mirror)||Recurring (8 episodes)|
|2008||The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor||Zi Juan (voice)|
Awards and nominations
|1986||Yes, Madam||Hong Kong Film Award for Best New Performer||Nominated|
|1998||Tomorrow Never Dies||MTV Movie Award for Best Fight||Nominated|
|2000||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||TFCA Award for Best Performance, Female||Nominated|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Saturn Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||BAFTA Film Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role||Nominated|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Action Team||Nominated|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Golden Horse Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||Hong Kong Film Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2001||Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon||VFCC Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2011||Reign of Assassins||Asian Film Award for Best Actress||Nominated|
|2011||Reign of Assassins||People’s Choice Award for Favorite Actress||Nominated|
|2011||Reign of Assassins||Huabiao Film Award for Outstanding Abroad Actress||Nominated|
|2018||Star Trek: Discovery||Saturn Award for Best Guest Starring Role on Television||Nominated|
|1998||Asian Media Award||Won|
|2001||ShoWest Award for International Star of the Year||Won|
|2013||Outstanding Contribution to Asian Cinema||Won|