The idea was first pitched to her in 1997 while promoting the
James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies.
“He painted this watercolor -- you know, this Chinese painting -- and I waited
for him,” she adds. Soon after, Yeoh and Lee went on a journey together to
explore different martial arts and to figure out what story the director was
eventually going to tell.
Two years later, after creating Yu Shu Lein with Lee, Yeoh started
shooting the film, only to tear her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). It was a serious
(and excruciating) injury for the actress, forcing her to get knee surgery. “When
I see myself walking so gracefully and slowly on screen, it was because I had a
brace on,” she laughs.
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Despite the setback, Yeoh was able to complete the film,
eventually earning a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress for her performance. The
film itself won four of its 14 total BAFTA nominations and took home four
“I have so many fond memories of making the film even though
I was living with a lot of pain at that time,” she says. “I would have not
changed it because of the emotion, the love, the poetry that you could see in
the film. It just all came pouring out.”