Michelle Yeoh: ‘The older you get, they see you by your age’

Michelle Yeoh is everywhere this awards season. I hope that translates to some serious recognition for her work in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Not only does she deserve it for her performance, it would shine such a bright light on a huge exception in Hollywood. The role was intended for Jackie Chan and when he passed on it, writers/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (aka The Daniels) restructured the part for a woman so they could offer it to Michelle. And it’s a physical role for an older woman. In Michelle’s case, she got to step outside her comfort zone and try comedy. All of this at the age of 60. Those of you who read me know that I don’t like to discuss age unless it’s relevant and in this case, it is because Michelle talked about it in her CBS Sunday Morning interview. She was overcome that The Daniels would stick their necks out for her, which is not common for women her age. Michelle said in Hollywood, the older you get, age is all that defines you.

But in a new interview with Seth Doane for CBS Sunday Morning, the Malaysian actress (Michelle Yeoh) 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.”

[From Yahoo!]

I mean, Michelle’s right. If women aren’t being ignored because they are a certain age, they’re being singled out for not ‘looking’ their age. Or they become our ‘goals’ for when we *gasp* reach that age. It’s like some dystopian novel where women lose their names at a certain point and are only referred to by their age. It is extremely common in Hollywood. Universal, even. But it’s not limited to H-town. Even in the business sector, women in top positions start worrying about getting squeezed out at certain ages, as if they have a kill switch that flips at 65.

I like Michelle’s point about how our capabilities get ignored in favor of advancing age as well. Wisdom and experience are put forward for men because of the full lives they’ve led. But the fact that a woman’s been around half a century or more, she’s clearly deteriorating both inside and out. I love that Michelle keeps this discussion in the spotlight and centers it on women’s aptitudes. She makes it fun by bringing up being discovered by the younger generation and how much she enjoys finally being seen as cool. But never once does she bring her appearance into it.

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Photo credit: Blaine Ohigashi/Avalon, Cover Images and Getty Images

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12 Responses to “Michelle Yeoh: ‘The older you get, they see you by your age’”

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  1. Tulipworthy says:

    She is a treasure.

  2. jo73c says:

    When I look at Michelle Yeoh all I see is awesomeness!

  3. Gizmo’sMa says:

    The first time I saw Michelle in some movie over 30 years ago. Back in the day VHF channels used to play badly dubbed martial art movies. It wasn’t until SuperCop was released that I learned her name. (No IMDB back then) I fell in love with her talent when I saw the first Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. That movie showed me she was more than an action star. I am so glad other (younger) people are discovering her talent now. She truly deserves all the accolades.

  4. Normades says:

    They made such a good decision rewriting the role and offering it to Michelle. It would have been an entirely different movie with Chan.
    I hope her, Ke and thx Daniels win all the awards.

  5. Yup, Me says:

    I loved the movie and I love Michelle. She embodies so many powerful dynamics in her various acting roles – elegance, power, mischievousness, aggression. I always come away wanting to go even farther on her characters’ journeys with her. She’s an expert at her craft.

  6. Little Red says:

    I’ve seen her in some of the movies she’s done over the years with the James Bond one being the first but seeing her regularly in Star Trek: Discovery really sealed the deal for me. I hope that Section 31 spin-off that has been rumored over the years happens one day soon especially since the third and final season of Picard is coming out next month and then no more.

  7. alexc says:

    She is everything – grace, talent, skill, beauty and soul. Just the very best.

  8. Mcmmom says:

    I love her – for so many reasons.

    I agree about the ageism for women. I’m 51 and definitely hitting my stride professionally, but for the first time in my career, I feel like I have a big old clock on my head.

    • TheFarmer'sWife says:

      Personally, I can’t wait to see Michelle in Star Trek or whatever she chooses to do next. She is awesome! My mother would’ve said Michelle should act her age: 50’s housewife code for both sit down and the unspoken thought about what she could’ve done if only she’d had the eggs to be like her too! I’m just sixty. I stopped dyeing my hair 15 years ago. My mother said my husband wouldn’t like it, and grey hair would make me invisible. My husband loves what I love. My grey hair receives lots of positive compliments from men and women. If anything people notice me more. At sixty, there’s not a lot of time left to do all of the kick-ass things I’ve got on my list…first, got to let the chickens out!

  9. TaraBest says:

    I love her so much. Just re-watched Crazy Rich Asians for the millionth time on Saturday and was glued to the screen for every scene of hers. Even when she’s playing a character that you don’t like, you can’t help but love her performance. I hope she wins all the awards!

  10. Emmy Rae says:

    That line about an older man going on an adventure with your daughter was a great distillation of the problem.

    Lovely to see her get the recognition she deserves!

  11. Yeohwinsall says:

    I bet all those guys, who are dismissive of Michelle Yeoh… at any age in their whole lives those guys would loose a fight with Michelle Yeoh, at the age she is today.

    It would be over fast for those guys, if they ever had to fight Yeoh.

    And I bet at least some of them have a secret crush on her too.