'Memoirs of a Geisha' star Michelle Yeoh slammed the critics regarding her casting in a Japanese role, arguing that actors are abe to play a various number of characters without revealing their true origins.
Yeoh, 43, a Malaysian Chinese born in Ipoh, Malaysia, plays the role of Chiyo, a young Japanese woman, who becomes the geisha named Sayuri, trained in all the artistic and social skills a geisha must master in order to survive in her society.
She says, "The actors were chosen because of their suitability to the characters. It's the same as an English actor playing a German or an American. So it seems strange to me when you say, 'Why are you playing Japanese?' "Why? Because I'm an actor!"
Despite having no formal martial arts training, Yeoh is best known for her roles in action and martial arts movies (notably The Heroic Trio in 1993, and the Yuen Woo-ping films The Tai-Chi Master and Wing Chun in 1994).
She relies on her dance training and instructors, and does many of her own stunts. She is one of the few women Jackie Chan allows to do her own stunts in his movies; they first worked together on a commercial in 1984.
Like many other Hong Kong stars, Yeoh has attempted to break into Hollywood. Despite starring in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) --garnering considerable praise as one of the genre's most popular Bond Girls-- and the popular Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), which also starred Zhang Ziyi, she has not won a mainstream audience in the English-speaking world as of yet.
She could have gained that audience had she accepted the role of Seraph in the two Matrix sequels, but due to a scheduling conflict she was unable to accept them, so the Matrix writers changed Seraph into a male character and cast Colin Chou in the role.
In 2002, she produced her first English movie, The Touch through her own production company, Mythical Films.
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