Michelle Yeoh Nearly Left Her Best Movie For A Ridiculous Reason

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

michelle yeoh

Everything Everywhere All At Once gave Michelle Yeoh the chance to star in a martial arts film, which is not unusual for the veteran actress, but this time, it was as the lead character. Movieweb reports that the instantly iconic role almost never happened, due to a a very small reason, that was thankfully, easy enough to fix. Yeoh refused to take the role unless her character’s name was changed, a request that the movie’s directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert were able to accommodate.

Originally, Michelle Yeoh’s character was named Michelle Wang. The directors asked why, saying that the name was “so you,” prompting the actress to explain “No, I’m not an Asian immigrant mother who’s running a laundromat. She needs her own voice.” Thankfully, changing the character’s name from Michelle to Evelyn was enough to get the actress on board with the film.

According to Michelle Yeoh, the character was actually a man in the first draft of the film. Writing a man is easier to finance, and easier to explain why he would be multiverse jumping according to the Shang-Chi star. Yeoh continued, “But then they changed it into a mother role, which actually suits the Daniels so much more, because they’re surrounded by very strong, smart women.”

Everything Everywhere All At Once follows Evelyn Wang, a mother, a wife, a daughter, and an owner of a laundromat, trying to live the American Dream. Through exposure to the multiverse, Michelle Yeoh’s character learns about other realities, in which she is a chef, a star, and has hot dog fingers. By exploring all the other possibilities of her life, Evelyn learns to connect with her husband, and most importantly, her daughter.

michelle yeoh
Michelle Yeoh in Star Trek: Discovery.

What drew Michelle Yeoh to the role, was “to make such an ordinary woman be extraordinary, it’s very fulfilling, because I think that is all of us.” The actress, who turned 60 this year, admitted that it had been awhile since she was offered the lead role. Yeoh has been acting for decades, most notably in martial arts films, and predominantly in a supporting role.

In 1985, Michelle Yeoh had her first starring role, as Inspecter Ng in the Hong-Kong action film Yes, Madam. Eight years later, Yeoh starred in an incredible six Chinese martial-arts films in the same year, including Super Cop 2 alongside Jackie Chan. For an actress to have started in 1985 and now, nearly 40 years later, to be named Time Magazine’s Icon of the Year is simply outstanding.

Michelle Yeoh’s first big English-language break came with Tomorrow Never Dies, Pierce Brosnan’s second outing as James Bond. 20 years later, Yeoh had a role in the groundbreaking ensemble film, Crazy Rich Asians, as the domineering mother of the groom. Last year, the Hong Kong star made her MCU debut as Shang-Chi’s mystical aunt, Ying Nan, guardian of Tao Lo.

The star, exploring a career resurgence after decades in the business, will be appearing in the upcoming pair of Avatar sequels and was recently cast as Madame Morrible in the movie adaptation of Wicked. Michelle Yeoh will also be part of the ensemble in A Haunting in Venice, Kenneth Branagh’s follow up to Death on the Nile. Before any of those films are out, fans can experience Yeoh’s voice acting in Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, as one of the new Maximals, Airazor, a robotic peregrine falcon.