Michelle Yeoh Calls Aung San Suu Kyi an ‘Iconic Female Asian Figure’
November 11, 2011
Aung San Suu Kyi biopic star Michelle Yeoh jumped at the chance to play the Nobel Peace Prize winner, saying, “How many iconic female Asian figures do we know in our time?” in a televised interview.
Yeoh said she took the script, written with her in mind, to friend Luc Besson. “I felt that Luc had the best experience because he was an amazing director. He had a very strong production and distribution company, so he know the ropes,” she said, but wasn’t sure Besson would be interested. “Unless he fell in love with the movie, he wouldn’t do it.,” she told CNN’s Talk Asia.
Although Yeoh was not called upon to perform her own stunts as she had in the martials arts films where she got her start, she had to do something just as challenging: learning the Burmese language.
“it was one of the crucial things that I had to do a and I promised my teacher who is a lecturer in Burmese so that it would not sound like a foreigner trying to speak Burmese, and that if the Burmese heard what I said, they would understand me,” Yeoh said.
Yeoh finally met Suu Kyi, whom she refers to by her Burmese title, Daw Suu, in Dec. 2010. “I was so nervous. I had fortunately spoken to her a few times, and Kim [Suu Kyi’s son] was en route to Bangkok to meet his mom for the first time in years. And we were just thinking, we are just there, so we should go to. We all handed in our passports, and all of our visas were rejected except mine.”
Her anxiety over the meeting did not subside until the two were in the same room. “I kept saying to myself, ‘please don’t make a fool of yourself.’ You are meeting someone that has lived with you for such a long time, she was with me every day from morning to night, in thoughts or visually or in sound.”
Yeoh said Suu Kyi put her at ease. “She is very affectionate, she’s holding your hand and asking ‘how was your trip? She’s very motherly, very caring. Even though she’s so petite and slim, you feel a great inner strength and a sense, an aura of inner peace about her.”
In the film, Yeoh was called upon to convincingly recreate a speech Suu Kyi upon her return to Myanmar after 16 years in the U.K. “I was very nervous, which was good for the scene, because she was very nervous when she gave the speech. ”
She wasn’t the only one feeling strong emotions during the shoot. “Luc came up to me and said ‘[one of the Burmese cast members] was crying the whole time. He was there in the crowd in 1988, and he said I was watching Daw Suu, and she was in front of me, and now I am standing behind her and she is saying it all again.’”
Yeoh sidestepped a question about any upcoming marriage plans with fiance Formula One governing body head Jean Todt.
“I guess [marriage] is always on the cads. But I think the most important thing is that when you have someone who enables you to be a better person, I think that’s very, very important,” she said.
Yeoh was also coy about any upcoming professional plans. “I’ve taken this year to concentrate fully on the promotion fo The Lady. This movie has been so meaningful, until we have premiered in every part of the world and encouraged as many people as possible to shine the spotlight on the Burmese people and Daw Suu, I will not have a next project.”