Why Did James Bond Put Michelle Yeoh Out of Work for Two Years?
With an Oscar nomination for her leading performance in the science fiction film Everything Everywhere All at Once, Michelle Yeoh is at the height of her powers. Yet, her prior role in a popular action film caused her career to go through a bit of a dry spell.
Yeoh co-starred in the 1990 film Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Brosnan's James Bond shortly after relocating to the United States. She played the talented Chinese agent Wai Lin in the James Bond film, and in the thriller, she is an important Bond ally.
The part was supposed to launch Yeoh's career, but in a recent interview with People, she admitted that it really caused her some issues with Hollywood not casting actors of Asian ancestry in different roles.
“Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Brosnan was the first movie I did when I moved to America,” she remarked. At that time, James Bond was exclusively recognised as manly, and the only girls had adorable names. Others in the business at the time couldn't really determine whether I was Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or even if I knew English. They would speak slowly and extremely loudly.
Until [Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon], I didn't work for almost two years because I couldn't accept the stereotyped roles that were presented to me.
Yeoh stated she is “proud” of how different the roles she can play in contemporary films are from the stereotypes she had to deal with earlier in her career.
The actress is neck-and-neck with Cate Blanchett for the Best Actress Oscar this year and has been prominently discussed during awards season.
The clearest example of Yeoh's progress in avoiding preconceptions is perhaps her performance as Evelyn Wang in Everything Everywhere All At Once. She is the first Asian actor to be nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars thanks to her work, which won her a Golden Globe.
Although Asian women “want to be seen…want to be heard,” Yeoh noted in a recent award speech, Evelyn Wang's tale is nonetheless significant even though she can be considered an ordinary woman. Despite the fact that it took Yeoh several years to achieve this degree of popularity after James Bond, she has paved the way for other women in her position.