Michelle Yeoh is an iconic martial arts movie legend. However, she didn’t always feel so confident that acting is what she should be doing. Fortunately, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino saved Yeoh from making the fatal decision to stop acting after one of the most “horrific” injuries of her career. Fortunately, she’s still in the game.
Michelle Yeoh gained international film from Hong Kong action movies
Yeoh comes from the world of ballet before she made the move into film. However, her dance skills would ultimately come in handy when it comes to fight choreography. As a result, she became one of the most legendary martial arts actors of all time.
Her original film credits listed her as Michelle Khan, as it was believed that the name would be more marketable. However, Yeoh would ultimately earn respect for performing nearly all of her own action stunts and later for her acting chops along with Hollywood names, such as Pierce Brosnan.
Quentin Tarantino saved Michelle Yeoh from quitting acting by fanboying out over his favorite action scenes
The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Yeoh about her upcoming movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. She talked about some major moments from her career, including the most dangerous moments. She ultimately had one of “the most horrific injuries of her career” while filming 1996’s The Stunt Woman.
This particular injury shook Yeoh to her core. “Everybody thought I broke my back,” Yeoh said. She mentioned her friends’ reaction: “You like to work, but this is insane. We feel so bad, but only you can help yourself.”
Yeoh’s neck and torso were in braces, which really dug her into a deeper existential crisis. She questioned her career direction and thought, “Why am I doing this? Is it worth it? If I really got hurt, then what?”
However, Yeoh said that Tarantino helped bring her self-confidence back. The filmmaker is a huge fan of martial arts and happened to be in Hong Kong and only wanted to meet with Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Yeoh. She ultimately allowed gave him five minutes to chat.
Yeoh recounted sitting on a couch, not even being able to turn her head when Tarantino arrived. He put a pillow near her feet and sat down. “I’ve watched all of your movies,” Tarantino said. He proceeded to tell her his favorite action scenes from her movies “frame for frame.”
“The next thing I knew, we were talking and I was coming back to life,” Yeoh said. “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 actor made the move to Hollywood in a James Bond film
Fortunately, Yeoh pushed through her injury and returned to movie sets. She ultimately made the huge move to Hollywood moviemaking with 1997’s James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. This performance gave her even more confidence in her acting ability, which is the first time that she reclaimed the name “Yeoh.”
“I had no script,” Yeoh said. “I just went there on the day, learned my action. You don’t think of it as, ‘Am I acting?’”
Hollywood didn’t want Yeoh to perform her own stunts, as they feared that she could seriously injure herself. “Yes, you have extra skill, which I hope we can incorporate in your work,” director Roger Spottiswoode said. “But you should be confident that you are here as an actress.”