Michelle Yeoh is currently enjoying the biggest success of her life, and with good reason: She has always kicked ass. (For proof, watch this mind-blowing clip of her and Cynthia Rothrock in 1985’s Yes, Madam!, the first starring role for both of them.) Many Americans first saw her in 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, in which she out-badasses Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond. You’d think it would have led to a flurry of great parts. But in a recent interview, Yeoh revealed that during that period, she didn’t work for two full years because the roles were so crap.
In a new interview with People (in a bit teased out by Insider), Yeoh says that she got more heartache than happiness after her Bond movie. For one thing, she said, “people in the industry couldn’t really tell the difference between whether I was Chinese or Japanese or Korean or if I even spoke English.” She added, “They would talk very loudly and very slow.”
Then there were the insulting offers: “I didn’t work for almost two years, until Crouching Tiger, simply because I could not agree with the stereotypical roles that were put forward to me.”
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon wound up being a watershed, becoming one of the biggest martial arts hits at the global box office, even in America, and despite it being subtitled.
Luckily, it doesn’t seem the same thing is happening to Yeoh after Everything Everywhere All at Once. She nabbed the role of Madame Morrible in the two-part Wicked film adaptation.
“In the past, this role would’ve been for a Caucasian lady,” Yeoh told People. “This is what we call diversity, inclusivity. This is how you make it work. It is a natural process — progress, evolution that we can have as storytellers.”
And then there’s the little case of her maybe winning an Oscar in a couple weeks. If so, hopefully the orchestra knows not to dare play her off.