What Crazy Rich Asians are like IRL, according to Michelle Yeoh

What Crazy Rich Asians are like IRL, according to Michelle Yeoh

© Provided by South China Morning Post Publishers Limited

Michelle Yeoh knows the Crazy Rich Asians.

"I lived in Hong Kong in the heyday of the 1980s, with all those galas and parties and charity organizations," she tells the South China Morning Post. "I've seen this world and I understand it. So I thought, 'what's so unusual?'"

Fast forward a few years, and Yeoh found herself stepping into the role of formidable Singaporean-Chinese matriarch and socialite supremo Eleanor Young in the film version of the 2013 bestselling book.

The movie opens August 15 in the US.

Yeoh's character, never a hair out of place, is aghast when her only son, the eminently eligible and dreamy Nick (Henry Golding), brings home Rachel (Constance Wu) - an American Chinese girl who, frankly, just isn't well-born enough.

Yeoh says she can relate; she has friends who never quite approved of their sons' matrimonial choices. And so she strove to make her character relatable, and to have the audience understand her choices.

"When I Skyped with [director] Jon Chu, I told him that I didn't intend Eleanor to be the villain because she's the mother who refuses to accept her son's choices," Yeoh recalls.

"We needed to show all the reasons behind that - you're the heir, the first born, someone groomed to take over an empire, and this empire is not just about wealth, it's about responsibility. It's not just about your family. It's about all the families who work for you."

She is optimistic about the global appeal - and limitless potential - of a movie with an all-Asian cast that is set in a glossy, sophisticated universe.

The movie is the first Hollywood film in 25 years to have an Asian leading cast.

"We don't have these contemporary all-Asian movies," she says. "And it's not just a 'diversity' movie. It's very representative of who we are, that we do more than martial arts films. Somehow, it's always been more acceptable to see Asian actors running around in an action film."

Yeoh understands the irony. The Malaysian-born actress shot to fame on the back of action movies, having starred in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and Ang Lee's martial arts classic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000).

Still, with Crazy Rich Asians, she's hoping to convey something altogether different to global audiences: that "it's important for us to be strong, unapologetic and very vocal in saying, 'Accept us, embrace us.'"

Given her status as one of the leading actresses of Asian descent on the international stage, Yeoh says that she took a conscious decision "to be at the forefront" of the movement for diversity.

"We are not stereotyped as much and forced to take a job even though we don't agree with it. The doors are opening," she says.

"But I wish they'd opened sooner so that there's more Asian talent being seen. We need to see more directors who are interested in making Asian stories. It took so long to get here - but at least we're here."

© Provided by South China Morning Post Publishers Limited

For now, though, Yeoh is just curious to see how her Asian friends relate to Crazy Rich Asians.

"Sure, people are very rich in Hong Kong, but they are also well-educated and eloquent. I need to go back to Hong Kong and not have people say to me, 'What were you thinking?'"

Yeoh, at least, was thinking of bringing a touch of her own truth to the screen.

This story originally appeared on Inkstone, a daily multimedia digest of China-focused news and features. Like what you see? Sign up for our newsletter, download our app, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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 Source : https://www.msn.com/en-sg/news/other/what-crazy-rich-asians-are-like-irl-according-to-michelle-yeoh/ar-BBLLPjE