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