Michelle Yeoh is a Malaysian actress. She was never a trained martial artist, but her extraordinary dance experience allowed her to pick up fight choreography easily for films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
Michelle Yeoh was born as Yang Zi Qiong in the mining town of Ipoh, in West Malaysia. Michelle is the daughter of Janet Yeoh and Yeoh Kian Teik, a lawyer and politician. She is of Han Chinese (Hokkien) descent, and spoke English and Malay before Chinese. Michelle began studying ballet when she was 4 years old and she moved to London, England to study at the Royal Academy as a teenager. After a brief dance career, she won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant title in her native country and the Miss Moomba beauty pageant title in Melbourne, Australia in the early 1980s. Her first on camera work was a 1984 commercial with martial arts star Jackie Chan. In 1985 she began making action movies with D&B Films of Hong Kong. She was first billed as Michelle Khan, and later, Michelle Yeoh. Never a trained martial artist, she relied on her dance discipline and her on-set trainers to prepare for her martial arts action scenes.
Michelle always uses dance moves in her films. She still does most of her own stunts and has been injured numerous times. She does not read Chinese and her Chinese scripts are read to her. In 1988, she married wealthy D&B Films executive Dickson Poon and retired from acting. Even though they divorced in 1992, she is close to Poon’s second wife and a godmother to Poon’s daughter.
When Michelle returned to acting, she became very popular to Chinese audiences and she became known to western audiences through her co-starring roles in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and in the phenomenally successful Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) directed by Ang Lee. She turned down a role in a sequel to The Matrix (1999), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008).
Michelle Yeoh can be seen in numerous martial arts films and some of her best fight scenes can be seen in films like Wing Chun (1994), Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Supercop 2 (1993), Royal Warriors (1986), Tai Chi Master (1993), Magnificent Warriors (1987), Reign of Assassins (2010), Supercop (1992), Yes Madam (1985) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).
Michelle Yeoh had her own production company, Mythical Films and used the company to discover and nurture new film-making talent.