Ahead of the theatrical debut of her first top-billed feature, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Michelle Yeoh has taken a look back on her long and varied career in the industry, including the moment she almost quit.
While filming the 1996 film The Stunt WomanYeoh suffered a severe injury to her back, which left her torso and neck in braces.
“Everybody thought I broke my back,” she tells The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview. Her friends encouraged her to take care of herself and think about the rigorous work obligations she’d signed up for. “You like to work, but this is insane. We feel so bad, but only you can help yourself.”
While healing from her injury, Yeoh was sent into an existential crisis and asked herself, “Why am I doing this? Is it worth it? If I really got hurt, then what?”
Then, martial arts buff and director Quentin Tarantino flew to Hong Kong on a mission to meet Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Yeoh. After a lot of back and forth, Yeoh agreed to a five-minute conversation with Tarantino. During their chat, Tarantino told the actor “I’ve watched all your movies,” before proceeding to rehash his favorite action scenes of hers frame by frame.
“The next thing I knew, we were talking and I was coming back to life,” Yeoh says. “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.’”
She went on to join Pierce Brosnan in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, which solidified her star power. On the set of the American production, Yeoh was told that maybe she did not have to do all her own stunts. “Yes, you have extra skills, which I hope we can incorporate in your work, but you should be confident that you are here as an actress,” director Roger Spottiswoode told her.
Everything Everywhere All At Once from the directing duo Daniels arrives in theaters starting April 8. The film also stars Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, James Hong, Jenny Slateand Harry Shum Jr.