Since her big screen debut 22 years ago, Datuk Michelle Yeoh has delighted viewers with her butt-kicking action. But in recent years, she has proven her mettle as a character actress, as seen in Memoirs of a Geisha. LI EE KEE the story.
DATUK Michelle Yeoh sauntered into the press suite at the swanky Park Hyatt Tokyo and greeted journalists from Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand with a cheerful hello. We were there to interview the actress-producer about her latest movie, Memoirs of a Geisha.
It was my first meeting with Yeoh and the first thing that struck me was her exceptionally slender frame. She wore a ruffled blouse matched with the skinniest pair of jeans I have ever seen. Looking at her, it is hard to imagine that this “queen of martial arts film” could bring down, let alone fight, anyone.
However, make no mistake as Yeoh is no dainty Malaysian flower. All her roles to-date have been strong, independent types. In Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), she broke the Bond Girl sex-kitten stereotype by playing super-agent Wai Lin and giving 007 a run for his money.
Now, in Memoirs, she plays the quiet geisha Mameha, mentor to Zhang Ziyi’s Chiyo/Sayuri. Although she does not use kung fu to bring down her rival, she is still no pushover.
“We are similar yet different in so many ways. We’re focused, disciplined and strong. But she differs from me, particularly in the philosophy of what it takes to be a geisha.
“As a geisha, there are so many rules to observe and obey. You do not talk about love. You’re not a wife. And as a result, Mameha, though she longed for love, had denied herself all that because she was the perfect geisha.
“But when I was playing her, I couldn’t even try to imagine how she could deny love, one of the most powerful emotions. She wasn’t a cold or bitter woman. She just accepted her life. So when we were filming some of her more emotional scenes, after I finished each shot, I had to go out (screamed) and then come back (appearing composed) and start again,” said Yeoh.
Unlike Mameha, Yeoh does not believe in surrendering to fate.
“If there is something you want, then you have to work for it. Fate is in your hands.”
The former Miss Malaysia 1983 added that Mameha is her most challenging role yet.
“When I talk, it’s always with big actions and to create a character that is the opposite of me is a test of my skill as an actor.”
The challenge lay in conveying Mameha’s constrained emotional life. Unlike Hatsumomo, Sayuri and Mother who could scream, throw things and slap each other when they were angry, Mameha was always in control.
“I needed viewers to understand and see into Mameha’s inner world. Every time she breathes, I need viewers to experience her pain because she won’t tell you, shed tears or have any outburst of emotions,” said Yeoh.
Indeed, Yeoh is far from the passive woman that Mameha is. In person, she is animated and boisterous. A fast talker, she is especially vocal when speaking about the lack of opportunities for Asian actors in Hollywood.
“What they (Hollywood) don’t know is that they just fall back on what’s been done over and over again. So, unless actors of our generation take a firmer stand and do not accept roles of stereotypical Asian women, things will not change. There is so much talent from Asia, not just living in Asia but in the United States and Europe. But the stories have to change whereby they have to accept that Asian faces are part of the make-up of their society as well.”
Yeoh hopes that Memoirs is the first step in the right direction.
“All of us knew that it was a privilege being in this movie, especially as Asian actors because such opportunities don’t come often. We realised the unique position we were in because if the movie does well, hopefully it will open more doors for Asian actors in the future,” said Yeoh.
Commenting on the casting controversy, she noted that since they arrived in Japan, never once did any of the cast feel any hostility from the Japanese.
“You have to understand that we come from a culture where we have played cross-cultural roles before. This is not the first time a Chinese played a Japanese or a Japanese played a Korean. What you have to understand is that we’re actors and this is our skill. The most important thing is that we respect the culture and character we portray.
“Unfortunately, there are not enough roles for Asian actors to start off with. So any Asian actor, forget about Japanese, Chinese, South Koreans or whatever, have to give an arm or a leg for a role like this.”
After Memoirs, Yeoh, 42, can next be seen in director Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, in which she plays an astronaut. From the look of things, this Ipoh-born actress may have just broken through the Asian stereotype.
With a career that is going places and a loving fiancé, Ferrari supremo Jean Todt (and what about that large blue diamond ring on her engagement finger, eh?), she has every reason to be happy.
“That is my philosophy. It’s important to appreciate what you have rather than vie for something that’s not there. I’m lucky for what I have. I’m doing a job I love, I’m healthy, my family is well and I have great friends around me. What is there not to be happy about? I think a sense of appreciation is important. After that is learning to let go of things.”
So what is the one thing she most enjoys now? She broke out into a cheeky laugh before answering: “Oh, things?”
Source: The Star
Oh yea.... do check out Cinema Online Geisha's site
Although we can't see Michelle's face in this wallpaper, still it's Mameha...
Credits to cinema online..
There's also some pics of Mameha in helloziyi.us
Here's Memoirs press video, it's about 10MB, it has about 1 minute of Mameha and Sayuri (with the fan dance!!) and Michelle's interview - Michelle's so cute with her actions in the interview!
Memoirs Promo Video
Credits to HelloZiyi
There's also a Sunshine pic...
Credits to MYWB - Jane's site
and Sunshine blog
That's all for now, update other stuff later..
Edited by tammiest, 07 May 2008 - 08:20 PM.
Max. 3 Pictures Per Post; please leave the rest as normal links-- thank you! :)