Monday, March 29, 2010

Women Warriors, Part Three: MICHELLE YEOH

I've already talked about Yukari Oshima, the actress who was my most prominent inspiration for "Hell Knight" and its main character, Yuki Hinomoto. I've spoken of the actress who co-starred with Yukari often, the supercute and uber-tough Moon Lee. It's inevitable that I talk about the undisputed queen of the classic 'Girls With Guns' films of the 80's...Michelle Yeoh.

Not long after the decade started, Michelle won the title of Miss Malaysia. To be a beauty queen is often a sure ticket for future fame and stardom in Far East countries, and she gravitated to Hong Kong. After meeting filmmaker and actor Sammo Hung, Michelle wanted to follow the lead of actors like him and Jackie Chan and dive into action films. She was given the chance by headlining the actioner "Yes, Madam!", which Sammo produced in 1985. Like Moon Lee, in spite of the fact she wasn't formally trained in martial arts, Michelle's dance background gave her the solid foundation she needed to at least be able to learn bone-busting moves quickly as she went along...fight choreography also wasn't much different from staging a dance sequence.

"Yes, Madam!" was something revolutionary...even in a film market where women had taken leading action roles before, some still needed to be convinced. With the support of her co-star, American actress and martial artist Cynthia Rothrock, this film convinced in truly spectacular fashion. The ladies could kick ass, and this film started the trend that exploded in popularity only two years later with Yukari Oshima and Moon Lee's "Angel". Yep, "Yes, Madam!" started the 'Girls With Guns' subgenre of Hong Kong action films!

Barely a handful of high-quality films later, however, Michelle retired from films after marrying businessman and film financier Dickson Poon. (Ah-ah, no jokes! I'm sure you thought of plenty funny to say about a name like 'Dickson Poon', anyway!) For better or worse, the marriage lasted only three years, and Michelle returned to action films with a bang by co-starring with the legendary Jackie Chan in "Police Story 3: Supercop". Fans couldn't have been happier to see her back, even though it must be said that doing her own fighting and stunts in action movies (especially in Hong Kong) can be hazardous to anyone's health. Michelle was subjected to a nearly crippling injury, in fact, during the shooting of one film, "Ah Kam".

In spite of pitfalls and pain, Michelle continued to ascend until she achieved international recognition. She received acclaim for films like "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", and even became a certified Bond Girl in "Tomorrow Never Dies". In more ways than I can say, Michelle Yeoh earned her title not simply as queen of the 'Girls With Guns' movies, but perhaps of all action a truly fine wine, she's only gotten better and more beautiful with the passage of time. :)

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