Feb 12, 2024   Articles, Interviews

“It’s like brushing my teeth,” says Michelle Yeoh, the Oscar-winning actor and star of Evertyhing Everywhere All at Once, of her relationshing with wing chum. “It’s a daily ritual I would not miss. Even if we have early call times on set, I will still commit to waking up earlier, to activate my mind and body.”

Martial arts is a form of mindfulness for Yeoh, who was born in Malaysia. “The benefits extend beyond physical fitness,” she says. As well as increasing strength and flexibility, martial arts “improves mental stamina and confidence”, she says. Perfecting each technique “requires focus, balance and concentration. It requires the mind and body to act as one.”

Yeoh has always been active: she moved to London aged 15 to train as a dancer before a back injury “derailed” her career. “Ballet was where I first learned how to move with strength and intention,” she says. It proved a fruitful grounding for martial arts, which she learned on set of the movie Wing Chun, released in 1994. “Dance and martial arts have a lot in common,” she says. “They’re both about fluid and powerful movement. When working ona ction movies, I really delve into my dance knowledge of choreography, co-ordination and flexibility to guide my martial arts and help me perform high intensity scenes with grace and elegance.”

Wing Chun – the kung fu film directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, which derives its name fromt he southern Chinese kung fu practice that uses a hand-to-hand combat system of self-defence – was Yeoh’s first foray into martial arts. In it, she plays a young woman working in her family’s tofu shop, who decideds to study combat to fend off a forced marriage and men hankering after her beauty. She recalls it fondly. “There were no [private] trailers back then; we all shared meals and conversations between scenes,” she says. On set, the combat routines felt “innovative and fun”.

Yeoh was hooked. She has since become renowned on-screen for her stunts: see her opposite Pierce Brosnan’s James Bon in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), or Steven Spielberg’s Memoirs of a Geisha (2005). In Everything Everywhere, she plays Evelyn Quan Qang, a Chinese-American laundromat lady navigating the complex American immigrant and tax systems, who switches between worlds to save the multiverse from an evil force, picking up increasingly elaborate kung fu moves along the way.

Read the full article/interview in our press library.