Name an orchid after Michelle Yeoh

Michelle Yeoh’s winning of the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once this year capped a remarkable journey started in 2001 by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And the universe linking the two giant films is still spinning – for the Malaysian actress.

Crouching Tiger had nine Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Director (Ang Lee). The Taiwanese director went on to win Best Director awards in other major film festivals. Besides Michelle Yeoh and Ang Lee, there were a number of other big stars in the ensemble – including Chow Yun Fat, Chang Chen, Cheng Pei-pei, Yo-yo Ma and Tan Dun. It was a breakthrough for Zhang Ziyi too. The film reintroduced wu xia to Western filmgoers and paved the way for a number of box-office hits including those of Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

Suddenly, in 2000, all these sword-fighting films Asians had been used to – from Wang Yu’s One-Armed Swordsman to David Chiang’s lonely travelling swordsman – were re-enchanting new audiences worldwide.

That was just one aspect of Michelle Yeoh’s involvement in cinematic history – in the development of wu xia and exposure to a wider audience.

She didn’t win any Best Actress Oscars then. She was not even nominated. She would have struggled, anyway. Hollywood favourite and heavyweight Julia Roberts won it in 2001 for her role in Erin Brockovich, which was about an environmental activist, a sure-fire Oscar-winning subject.

Also, this year – a tops-turvy time when a country which signed an agreement to help guarantee the independence of another country could just invade it – seemed more suitable. Everything Everywhere All At Once: “When an interdimensional rupture unravels reality, an unlikely hero must channel her newfound powers to fight bizarre and bewildering dangers from the multiverse as the fate of the world hangs in the balance.” Seems like Michelle Yeoh time.

And to cap, the occasion, the presence of Jamie Lee Curtis and Ke Huy Quan made everything all the more noteworthy. I consider Curtis part of Hollywood royalty, being the daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Leigh was in an all-time Hollywood iconic horror film – Psycho. Curtis was top-billed with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like It Hot, no less.

And finally, for the second time since last year, Ke Huy Quan reunited with Harrison Ford who starred with him, when Ke was a child actor, in 1984’s Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom.

Curtis won her Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Ke Huy Quan, for Best Supporting Actor in Everything.

The two were not at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles just to rub shoulders.

Neither, of course, was Michelle Yeoh, now already 60.

She made it – finally.

And I think all of Singapore rejoiced with her.

Good to know that her granduncle was the late Prof Yeoh Ghim Seng, former Speaker of Singapore’s Parliament and MP for Joo Chiat. She also has a cousin here, economist Yeoh Lam Keong.

Let’s invite her to Singapore.

Plant a tree and have an orchid named after her.

Tan Bah Bah, consulting editor of TheIndependent.SG is a former senior leader writer with The Straits Times. He was also the managing editor of a magazine publishing company.


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