Michelle Yeoh says Malaysia’s diversity made her ‘open, accepting’

Norman Goh

April 18, 2023

Article taken from NIKKEI Asia

KUALA LUMPUR — Growing up in Malaysia’s multiracial society and diverse culture has made Michelle Yeoh “open and accepting” and shaped her world views and career, the Oscar winner said in an interview on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur.

“I see how I can learn from other people. Because when we are here in Malaysia, we learn from our Malay, Indian and Chinese friends,” she said in a group media interview. “To be brought up in an environment like that has made me much more open and accepting because it’s the difference that makes us so complex, vibrant, and dynamic.”

The 60-year-old became the first Asian to win an Academy Award for best actress in the film “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once” in March. The film had the most nominations with 11 and went on to win seven, including for her co-stars, Jamie Lee Curtis and Ke Huy Quan.

“It was such an incredible journey. It was a roller-coaster ride that started last year when the movie first came out. Can you imagine the Oscars [was] this March? It was a whole year of not knowing, wanting, hoping, wishing.”

Yeoh was born and raised in Ipoh, a city in northwestern Malaysia, before she moved to the U.K. when she was 15. Yeoh’s career began in the 1980s when she picked up roles in martial arts movies. She made her Hollywood debut in “Tomorrow Never Dies,” a 1997 James Bond film, acting alongside Pierce Brosnan.

Yeoh said that Asian filmmakers have to be bold, courageous and to believe in themselves so that they can tell the manifold stories from this region.

“They’re amazing filmmakers from this part of our world. We have to create opportunities for them. We have to create platforms that will showcase their talent,” Yeoh stressed.

She promised that she would return home later in the year to work closely with Malaysian and regional studios to help pave the way for Asian filmmakers.

Her advice to aspiring Asian actors? “It’s perseverance [and] hard work. Storytellers are people who are able to make a change, who have the vision and the foresight.”

Yeoh also said at the Oscars in her speech, “Ladies, don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re past your prime.” On Tuesday, she made the point again that female actors should not be shoehorned into particular roles.

“In America [in the past], there was someone who said look at the definition of ‘prime’ for women. Once you’re past your 30s, you’re past your prime. How ridiculous is that?” Yeoh said.

“So someone should change that definition, and we should change it.”

Script developed by Never Enough Design