Actress: Michelle Yeoh
Character: Wai Lin
Movie: 'Tomorrow Never Dies'
Date of Birth: 6th August 1962
Place of Birth: Ipoh Perak, Malaysia
Trivia: Has a Bachelor's Degree in Dance from the Royal Academy of Dance, and is the highest paid actress in Asia.
PLEASED TO MEET YOU
Posing as a reporter for the New China News Agency, Colonel Wai Lin of the People's Republic goes undercover to investigate the suspicious circumstances behind hostilities between her country's armed forces and the British Navy.
James Bond bumps into Wai Lin at Elliot Carver's launch party (where she confesses to slipping into the exclusive party and gets away with it, whilst 007 is taken into custody for pretending to be a banker). Then, during a raid on Carver's laboratory in Hamburg 007 and Wai Lin cross paths. Finally, during an underwater reconnaissance of HMS Devonshire, the pair finally team up.
"I always wanted to work with a decadent agent of a corrupt western power."
CAUGHT IN THE ACT
Wai Lin rebuffs Bond's advances throughout the film until the final sequence, where the pair make waves on the wreckage of Carver's stealth boat, irresponsibly ignoring "are you there?" calls from the British Navy.
Martial arts specialist Michelle Yeoh gives Wai Lin an explosive on-screen presence in "Tomorrow Never Dies". Wai Lin is James Bond's opposite number in the Chinese People's External Security Force.
She has access to her own version of Q-Branch equipped with the latest spy gadgets, including a version of 007's Omega Seamaster, which she claims has had "a few improvements" made to it. Wai Lin prefers stealth to Bond's contrasting run-and-gun mentality, and equips herself with zip wires and pitons to wall walk and escape buildings undetected. Standard equipment also includes special ear-rings with built in lock picks, which she uses to lose Bond after a chase through the streets of Saigon.
During the raid on Carver's stealth ship, she is captured after destroying the engine room controls and held as a hostage against Bond. Despite her demands to complete the mission, Bond keeps to his promise and later rescues her from drowning after the stealth ship has been destroyed.
The latest in a line of Bond girls, intended to match up to the resourcefulness of 007. This time, Wai Lin delivers the goods. She can hold her own in a brisk fist-fight and is a very reliable ally, but typically reliant on James Bond to complete her. She is an expert in the martial arts, stealth, explosives, boating and motor-biking, all in equal measure to Bond.
Of all the action heroines of Hong Kong cinema, Michelle Yeoh stands out in both acting ability, competency in onscreen martial arts, and in her willingness to perform the most daring stunts imaginable. Born as Yeoh Choo Kheng was in Ipoh, Malaysia. At the age of four, Michelle began training as ballet dancing but also excelled in athletic and sports events - for example, in her teenage years, Michelle enjoyed playing squash and was also a national competitor in swimming and diving. Yeoh achieved a bachelor's degree in creative arts and later attended London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Yeoh chose a minor in dramatic arts because she thought that it would help her with expression, but did not initially intend to be an actress.
Determined to gain a Master's degree in dance, while she was living in England, Michelle explored contemporary, jazz and ballet dancing. Unfortunately, her professional dancing career ended when she encountered a serious injury with her doctor advising her not to perform any stressful physical activities in the near future.
In 1983, Michelle returned to her hometown of Ipoh Perak. It was at the age young age of 21 when Michelle became the winner of the Miss Malaysian beauty pageant - but it was not Michelle's idea to enter the contest. The scheme was orchestrated by Michelle's mother and her mother's friends who thought that Michelle would be an excellent contestant in the pageant. It transpired that Yeoh's mother had sent some photos into the competition without Michelle's knowledge. Thus, in order to stop her mother from nagging her, Michelle entered the contest. Later that year, Michelle attended the contest, hosted in Melbourne, where she earned the title of Miss Mooba.
As Miss Malaysia, Michelle's public profile boomed. On the back of her recognition, a friend of Michelle's suggested she accept a part in a D&B Films commercial in Hong Kong, alongside a familiar face: Jackie Chan. The name baffled Yeoh for a moment, as, in Hong Kong, Jackie is known as Sing Lung. After her successful but minor acting role, Michelle was offered a 2-year film contract.
While Michelle was working for D&B, she was known as Michelle Khan. D&B gave her this more Anglicised name as they hoped Michelle's films would find a market in the USA. The first movie that she starred in was "The Owl vs. Dumbo" (1984). This was an action/comedy movie directed by Sammo Hung. At this point, Michelle's Cantonese was limited. Living in Malaysia, Michelle spoke some Chinese, but the dominant language was Hokkien. From her first feature film, Michelle found her passion: action. She studied for up to 8 hours a day transforming dance and ballet movements into a form of martial arts. Whilst this film was a comedy, the soon-to-be-star found that comedy was not for her.
While working for D&B Films, Michelle starred in other movies such as "Yes Madam!" with Cynthia Rothrock (on which she first performed all of her own stunts), "Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars", "Royal Warriors", "Magnificent Warriors", and "Easy Money". While making "Magnificent Warriors" in 1988, Michelle was feeling the pressure of the shoot and an error in judgment led to the actress sustaining several injuries (a ruptured artery in her leg and a dislocated shoulder). After toning down the action and shooting "Easy Money", Michelle decided it was time to take a break from the camera. She left D&B and had intentions of retiring.
In 1988, Michelle married the owner and producer of D&B Films, Dickson Poon. The marriage was short-lived. In 1992, after a divorce, she made a comeback to the world of cinema. She starred in the high-profile adventure film "Police Story III", opposite Jackie Chan. Despite Yeoh's four-year absence from the business, her stunt skills were still as good as ever. She performed martial arts and her own stunts without any wirework.
Soon thereafter, Michelle was signed to star in movies such as the new "Dragon Gate Inn", "The Heroic Trio", "The Executioners", "Holy Weapon", "Once a Cop", and "Wing Chun". Her commitments to all of these films were over the course of just a single year.
In 1994, Michelle worked with the great Kung Fu master, Jet Li, in the movie "The Tai Chi Master". During this year, she also starred in "Butterfly" and "Sword" and "The Wonder 7".
In 1995, John Woo approached Michelle to work with him in his "Once A Thief" TV series. Regrettably, Michelle's commitments meant that she was unable to sign up to the regular cast of the television series. In 1996, Yeoh changed tack and signed onto the cast of drama "Ah Kam", in which she plays a self-styled role of a stuntwoman. Midway through the production of this movie, the script was altered after Michelle sustained serious injury - falling uncontrolled from an 18-foot height.
After recovering, she took a co-starring role in the semi-biographical picture, "The Soong Sisters", in which she appeared with Maggie Cheung and Vivian Wu. The film was delayed due to its protracted shoot and the need to edit the enormous amount of footage captured in production. In 1997, Michelle was offered a break into the American world of Hollywood. She made her English-speaking debut in the James Bond flick, 'Tomorrow Never Dies'.
She made a name for herself in Hollywood with the high-octane Bond adventure and earned roles in "Babylon A.D.", "Memoirs of a Geisha", "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor". She is signed up to voice a character in the sequel to successful children's picture, "Kung Fu Panda" and rumoured to be taking on the title-role in a biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi.