Michelle Yeoh was on a Zoom call Tuesday with her “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” family – including her co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan and James Hong and directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan – when she learned that she had “burst with joy”: she was nominated for best actress for her performance as the cantankerous laundromat owner in the film, a sci-fi journey through time, space and the human experience.
“We want to hold hands, even though they’re in America and I’m now in Paris, and so we’ve been screaming at the top of our heads,” she said by phone shortly after the announcement. appointments. No wonder: “Everything, everywhere, all at once” led the day with 11 nominations, including Best Picture.
Should she win, Yeah – who was born in Malaysia and became a movie star in Asia before crossing the world in films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018) – would become the first Asian woman to win an actress Oscar lead. (She won it first Golden Globe earlier this month.)
“Ninety-five years of Oscars,” she said. “Of course I’m over the moon, but I feel a bit sad because I know we know there have been amazing Asian actresses who have come before me, and I stand on their shoulders.” She added: “I hope this breaks this endless glass ceiling, that it continues and that we see more of our faces up there.”
Yeoh, 60, said the film, which was released last March and became a surprise box office hit amid the pandemic, resonated in part because it came “at a time when we had all need to be healed”.
She explained: “We’ve been through such a crazy and chaotic time in our lives, and we all needed something to fill us with hope and make sure that as long as we can show each other kindness, compassion and love and never give up on your family.
Hope was a priority for the actress, who earlier in the week responded to the mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, an Asian American community where Lunar New Year celebrations were taking place. “At a time when our community should be celebrating a new beginning, we are now in mourning,” she posted on Instagram.
Asked about her appointment at a time of sadness, she said: ‘One thing we always need is hope’, adding: ‘We always have to be able to hold our heads up high and move forward. All of our hearts are so broken for what happened in Monterey Park.
At the heart of the film is a strained mother-daughter relationship, two characters who both struggle to navigate very different everyday realities (and very different interdimensional unrealities). It didn’t surprise Yeoh that this dynamic resonated with so many viewers, but she was touched by its healing power. Older women came to her to tell her that even though they didn’t understand the film, it had helped their relationships with their daughters.
Yeoh recalled a viewer who said her estranged daughter contacted her after years of not speaking. “We are now bonded and we have a relationship because of your movie,” Yeoh recalled as the woman said. “Sometimes when a movie like this comes along and you feel like you’ve healed people, it’s such an amazing reward.”
For Yeoh, a former stuntwoman who has worked in the industry for decades, “Everything” was a showcase for her many talents. Reflecting on her long career can be bittersweet, she says, “but then, at other times, it’s like I love what I do. I have this great passion for cinema and all that. So it’s like you’re not doing it for the rewards. You do it because you want to put the best out there.
“But of course please give me the Oscar, man,” she said with a laugh. “It’s just a tribute to say, never give up. If you believe in yourself, you never give up. It took me 40 years, but here it is.