While Yeoh was laid up in bed, unable to move, Quentin Tarantino happened to be in Hong Kong with the intention of meeting just three individuals: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Michelle Yeoh. Though initially resistant (THR describes Tarantino’s stubborn insistence to meet with her as a success, but only after “much wheedling from the American”), Yeoh finally agreed to a brief conversation with the famous director. That, as it turned out, turned into a much, much longer one. Enthusiastically telling Yeoh that “I’ve watched all your movies” and going on to break down all his favorite action sequences to a molecular level, Yeoh gradually came out of her existential funk. As she put it:
“The next thing I knew, we were talking and I was coming back to life. I’ll never forget it. It was like, ‘I do love what I do.’ And that was a turning point where I felt, ‘I’ve paid my dues.'”
The rest, as they say, is history. Her next big break after that came with 1997’s “Tomorrow Never Dies,” as her scene-stealing appearance in the James Bond film firmly landed her on the map in Hollywood for good. She soon followed that up with Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” a movie where her undeniably charismatic performance convinced the director to back off his initial plans to dub over her voice. As Lee remembers, “The way she performs, you cannot duplicate that. And of course, the good news is she’s a very good actress.”
That talent would drive Yeoh’s next decade of work, ultimately culminating with her supporting role in “Star Trek: Discovery,” a long-overdue victory lap in Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and, of course, what seems like her finest role to date with “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” How fitting is it that this story comes out ahead of the release of a movie that, according to Jacob Hall’s review, begins with Yeoh’s character at a low point where she’s “despondent, bored, and prone to distraction, her life an endless cycle of disappointment.” As much as life tends to imitate art, sometimes it feels even more rewarding when it’s the other way around.
“Everything Everywhere All At Once” comes to theaters on March 25, 2022.