The list--------Michelle Yeoh 11-17-2004 12:24

As a young girl, Michelle Yeoh didn't dream of becoming a martial artist or a movie star. She wanted to dazzle the world on her toes, in the world of ballet. In today's "List," we find out what was behind Yeoh's move from dancer to daredevil, and how she ended up as Asia's premier female kungfu star.

Born to a lawyer's family in Ipoh, Malaysia in 1962, Michelle Yeoh was a tomboy who loved sport. And it was no doubt this athleticism that fueled her passion for dance, particularly ballet. But her dream of being a prima ballerina ended with a spinal injury during a practice session in her college years.

Graduating from the Royal Academy of Dance in the UK with a BA in Creative Arts and a minor in Drama, Michelle returned to Malaysia in 1983. Her mother signed her up for a beauty contest, and the 21-year-old Michelle was crowned Miss Malaysia for that year. The title led to a commercial for a brand of watches with action star Jackie Chan. She went on to a series of cameo roles on screen, and in 1985, landed the lead role in the Hong Kong police action hit, "Yes, Madam."

She said, "The film company said to me, you're different from the average Hong Kong girl. You can dance, you're very "sporty." Why be just a pretty face? They asked me if I was interested in shooting an action movie. I thought it was very challenging. So I gave it a try."

Michelle played a fearless police officer in "Yes, Madam." Still a new face to the Asian entertainment scene, Michelle's distinctive beauty and stunning kungfu moves earned her huge popularity.

In the following year, Michelle again played a feisty female police officer in "Royal Warriors." Her second hit saw her attempting even more sophisticated action moves, playing opposite Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada. It was "Royal Warriors" that fixed Michelle's image as a "Girl with Guns."

She said, "I like action very much. You know I danced and played all kinds of sports from a very early age. If I can do action movies well, why should I give them up? But I may try different genres in the future."

In 1992, action star Jackie Chan offered Michelle Yeoh the female lead in "Supercop", the third installment of his Police Story series. The two superstars Yeoh and Chan shone together, bringing out the best in each other, and inspiring their most fantastic and dangerous stunts. The film became a box office legend in Asia and dubbed into English three years later, went on to acclaim in the US, where Hollywood prides itself on stunt virtuosity.

From 1993, Michelle Yeoh starred in "The Heroic Trio", "Wonder Seven", and the martial arts historic stories "Tai Chi Master" alongside Jet Li. She became the highest paid female movie star in Asia, with an annual income of twenty million Hong Kong dollars.

But Michelle has paid a high price for insisting on doing her own fights and stunts. The 1996 "Ah Kam," portrays the life of stand-ins. Things went wrong during the filming of what should have been a routine stunt. Falling 18 feet, Michelle landed at an awkward angle. The accident could have cost her her life. Miraculously, she escaped with "only" deep-tissue bruising and a cracked rib.

International fame came in 1997 as Colonel Wai Lin in the 18th James Bond film "Tomorrow Never Dies." For the first time in the history of the popular series, Bond met his female equal!

Michelle gave one of her most mature performances in her already impressive career, in Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" which won Oscar for best foreign film in 2001. Michelle herself has been honoured as Best Actress by both the Ethnic Multicultural Media or EMMA Awards and the Asian and Asian American achievement or AMMY Awards.

"It's not that I didn't think of shooting a non-action film. I don't think the most important thing is whether or not it's an action film. The story counts more. Action without a story is dull. My emphasis is on the emotion and the personality in my roles,鈥 said she.

Michelle Yeoh is a female action movie icon who sets the standard for other action actresses. Her combination of kungfu and acting artistry has fans hoping to see more of her in both familiar and breakaway roles.

Editor:Chen Jie

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