After four decades at the top of her game, DDW watches as Michelle Yeoh’s star continues to rise with a new role in Netflix’s ‘The Brothers Sun’, a seat at every fashion week, and her Oscars-rated leading performance in A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once – now returning to cinemas.
If you don’t know Michelle Yeoh, the chances are you actually probably do. She’s been central to the fabric of Hong Kong martial arts films and Hollywood action films since her first role in The Owl vs Bombo in 1984. Over a career of almost 40 years, Yeoh has been a revolutionary Bond girl, a frequent co-star of Jackie Chan and an internationally-recognised actress that once performed all of her own stunts.
Pop culture fans will recognise Yeoh from the box-office smash hit Crazy Rich Asians, while movie buffs will know her award-winning turn in Ang Lee’s Oscars-darling Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Yeoh has been front and centre for many of the iconic moments of Asian representation in Hollywood and has continued to advocate for East and API inclusion in Hollywood and the greater American culture since the mid-1990s. Now, Yeoh is drumming up Oscars buzz once again with her utterly electric performance in A24’s highest-grossing movie ever Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Written and directed by duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – professionally known as The Daniels – Everything Everywhere All At Once was originally envisioned for Yeoh’s frequent collaborator Jackie Chan as the protagonist. Yeoh was sidelined to the supporting role of wife. Scheduling conflicts meant Chan would be unavailable but upon meeting with Yeoh, The Daniels immediately recognised the explosive potential.
It is rare to see an American action film fronted by a 59-year-old Malaysian woman, but – with classic A24 energy – The Daniels embraced the revolutionary casting choice. They reframed the entire story to centre on Yeoh as Evelyn, the heroine. “Jackie actually texted me,” Yeoh told the Guardian of Chan’s response to the film. “And he says: ‘Wow, I hear amazing things about your movie.
Did you know that the boys came to see me in China?’ And I said: ‘Yes, your loss, my bro!’” Yeoh’s playfulness and bantering is part of her all-encompassing charm. On-screen, it exudes through her action sequences and perfectly compliments the kind of humorous optimism expected of The Daniels after 2016’s Swiss Army Man.
Yet with an intensive history of ballet training, Yeoh’s absurd humour is always balanced by an understated sense of poise and purpose. It never seems like she’s trying to make you laugh, or that she’s too grave or sedated. It is the finely tuned subtleties of Yeoh’s performance that grounds Daniels’ wildly ambitious sci-fi dramedy about multi-verses and saving an infinite number of worlds.
Her performance as a world-wearied wife, mother, and laundromat owner whose being audited by the IRS is personal and human at the centre of chaos.
“Yeoh imbues Evelyn with moving shades of melancholy, regret, resolve and growing curiosity,”wrote Maureen Ryan of Vanity Fair.
“She’s the kind of woman the world (and Hollywood) routinely overlooks, but Yeoh makes her embrace of lead-character energy positively gripping.” For DWW, Yeoh is just simply filled with the kind of natural charisma and talent that truly makes someone a star.
It is unsurprising then that Yeoh seems to be on the cover of every magazine at the moment alongside headline words like “megastardom”. Crowned one of People magazine’s “Most Beautiful People in the World” in 1997 and named again as one of their “All-Time Screen Beauties” in 2009, Yeoh’s radiant personality, beauty, and physical stature makes her a natural fashion muse.
Her most recent Haute Couture Paris Fashion Week experience was assuredly documented for Vogue China and publicised across Instagram. While at Paris Fashion Week, Yeoh’s schedule included the exclusive Balenciaga dinner party as well as a front-row seat at the runway show. It’s a natural progression for a star in preparation for an almost guaranteed awards season.
It may be early for speculation, but Oscars odds predict Yeoh’s guaranteed nomination and a two-horse race between Yeoh and Margot Robbie for the yet-to-be-released Babylon. Yeoh’s Best Actress win would mark a watershed moment for API recognition in Hollywood, with Yeoh’s nomination marking the first time there has been a Southeast Asian nominee for Best Actress in Oscars history.
And with her current Fashion Week journeys, it will be a battle for the designers to dress Yeoh for the awards. Expect to see her on our Best Dressed lists when the time comes. After her stunning “best dressed” display at the Met Gala earlier this year in a green Prabal Gurung gown, expect a Vogue-catalogued ageless beauty routine and a perfect outfit change for the afterparty.
It is crystal clear that A24’s status as an industry innovator is cemented by Yeoh’s current meteoric stardom. Offering a wholesome, equitable and artistic salve to the horrifying stories of sexual harassment and manipulation that poured from The Weinstein Company, A24 is the independent film company shining a positive light Hollywood.
With the Oscars ceremony suffering from the legacy of Weinstein, Hollywood racism and the Will Smith slap, A24’s brings game-changing diversity to the award show. Moonlight’s infamous 2017 Best Picture win may have been overshadowed by the card confusion but the recognition of a film dealing so beautifully with masculine African American sexuality was monumental.
In the same year, Mahershala Ali’s won Best Supporting Actor and marked the first time a Muslim actor in any category won an Academy Award. Last year, Minari was A24’s Oscar darling. Yuh-Jung Youn’s performance took the Supporting Actress prize and represented the first time a Korean actress was even nominated for the award. Her co-star Steven Yeun’s nomination for his lead role was also a landmark moment as he became the first time an East Asian and Asian American had been nominated for Best Best Actor.
After recently receiving a $225 million equity investment to fund its strategic growth plan, the production company is expected to produce more diverse record-breaking and Oscar-winning movies. With their trademark avant-garde approach to style and filmmaking, and equitable diverse casting and industry employment, expect many other awards ‘firsts’ in the near future.
As for A24’s newest star, there is absolutely no limit to the height of stardom. With an upcoming role in the all-Asian cast of Netflix’s ‘The Brothers Sun’ on the horizon, discussions of a Yeoh-fronted Star Trek spinoff and a busy awards season ahead, we will be seeing even more of this international woman of the moment in the coming months and years.
Michelle Yeoh is redefining what it means to be a minority-ethnic woman ageing in the Hollywood eye while simultaneously dominating our cultural landscape. Quite literally, she is in everything, everywhere, all at once, and thankfully it looks like her star is only reaching new, previously unthinkable heights.
Due to the film’s global success. A24’s Everything Everywhere All At Once returned to select theatres last week. The re-release marks a first for the New York founded production company. With the A24 summer hit to be complimented with an exclusive director’s cut, eight minutes of outtakes and an introduction from The Daniels themselves.