Life at 60 is pretty good for Michelle Yeoh, who is generating Oscar buzz with her lead role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. ("Your loss, bro," she shot back when former co-star Jackie Chan texted to say that he'd been offered the plum part, originally intended for a man, first.)
But in a new interview with Seth Doane for CBS Sunday Morning, the Malaysian actress admitted that she was surprised to be cast "at this point in my career."
"The older you get, they see you by your age rather than see you by your capability," the martial arts-trained star explained.
Yeoh choked up when she recalled the "joyful" validation of the film's writers and directors, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (a.k.a. "the Daniels"), trusting her with a role that was not only physically demanding but also required the ability to navigate both comedic and dramatic moments.
The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actress grew emotional as she spoke to Doane about how meaningful it is "when someone gives you the opportunity to show what you're capable of."
That validation was unexpected for Yeoh, given her fears about seeing her "spectacular career" grind to a stop with every birthday.
"You don't want it to just slow down or end because you have gotten to a certain age," she said. "And you start getting scripts where the guy, the hero, is still in his 50s, 60s ... some even more. And they get to go on the adventure with your daughter. And then you go, like, 'No, c'mon guys, give me a chance.' Because I feel that I am still able to do all that."
Yeoh also opened up about stepping back from the film business after getting married to producer Dickson Poon in 1988, with the intention of devoting herself to motherhood. But when she learned that she "couldn't have kids," the Tomorrow Never Dies star left the marriage, explaining, "I knew that this was a family who needed kids." All the same, making that choice was "devastating."
"It is life," she told Doane. "Now I have godchildren — beautiful godchildren. They are like my extended family."
She's also found love with French motor racing executive Jean Todt, her romantic partner since 2004.
And while Yeoh's days these days are a whirlwind of red carpets and award shows, they all start the same: with stretches in bed and a meditation apology of sorts to the body she's about to use in another daring stunt.
"Please forgive me. I'm sorry. Thank you. I love you," Yeoh tells herself in an on-camera demonstration of her morning routine. "This body takes a lot of bumps and bruises, so that is my way of saying thank you to it."
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