IPOH-BORN international star Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh took a break from her busy schedule in Toronto, where she is filming the upcoming TV series ‘Star Trek: Discovery’, to receive the Commander of the Legion of Honour award from French President Francois Hollande at the French ambassador’s official residence in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday. Although the former Bond girl had to rush back to Toronto to continue filming, the 54-year-old former Miss Malaysia/World took some time to talk to New Sunday Times.
Question: Congratulations on being awarded the Commander of the Legion of Honour, the highest honour in France for a non-citizen. What does the award mean to you personally and professionally?
Answer: I am deeply honoured to be conferred the Commander of the Legion of Honour award by French President Francois Hollande.
I’m so privileged to be able to work on important causes in France and worldwide.
I have had great opportunities to work with so many distinguished professionals in France, such as Professor Gerard Saillant at the ICM Brain and Spine Institute in Paris, director Luc Besson, watchmaker Richard Mille, and, of course, Jean Todt and his team for the International Automobile Federation’s campaigns for road safety.
My ties to France become stronger each day. My attachment to France has not stopped growing, and it has become a very close and personal bond.
I was so thrilled that the ceremony was held in my home country, Malaysia, where my family and closest friends could be a part of.
This award will serve as a constant reminder to advocate for important causes.
I shared this honour with my dad and Jean, who gave me the courage and strength to be better.
Q: What does it take to get to where you are today?
A: Hard work, and by having that attitude, I consider myself lucky.
I’m blessed that I’m always surrounded by great talent and professionals, who are great mentors, and kind and generous people, who share their valuable knowledge and experiences.
I have my feet firmly on the ground because of my parents. Their love and support give me great courage to dare to dream.
Q: How has Hollywood embraced roles for Asians? Have you seen changes in the way the film industry perceives Asian characters over the years?
A: It has taken a long time and there’s still a long way to go.
There are too few Asian talents on screen, and I don’t want us to be given token roles because of the big China market.
Q: Hollywood actresses have been fighting for bigger roles for women. How do you see the way roles for women have changed over the years?
A: The struggle for better roles and equal pay will only improve if we continue to fight for them.
Only with persistence are we able to make improvements.
Thank God for the amazing older actresses who strengthened our cause, from the big screen to wonderful TV series.
Q: What are your thoughts on the action film genre today? How has it changed compared with the time when you were doing your roundhouse kicks and jumping on buildings on the big screen?
A: It has improved tremendously over the years. It is safer, more exciting and lively, especially with the help of CGI (computer-generated images).
We are in the entertainment business and certainly don’t want to see or hear of any injuries while performing a stunt.
Q: What is your advice to fellow actors and actresses in Malaysia who look up to you as their role model?
A: My advice to newcomers is for them to continue improving themselves. Don’t just be good, be the best.
Set the bar high for yourself, always listen and never stop learning.
Reach for the stars, but work hard. Always be prepared for
any possibilities so that when opportunity knocks, you will be ready.
Q: What are some of the things you miss most about Malaysia? When will we be seeing you back here again?
A: I miss my family, my niece and nephews. And, of course, my favourite dishes — curry mee, laksa and big head prawn. I also miss hiking in Malaysia. I hope to return to Malaysia soon to celebrate my mum’s birthday.
Q: When was the last time you were back in Ipoh? How much has it changed for you?
A: I haven’t been back to Ipoh since Christmas last year.
For me, Ipoh will always be Ipoh. It is always my beautiful home, where my family and friends are. Of course, food in Ipoh is always the best.