By: Cindy Sui
HONG KONG — As tough as action film star Michelle Yeoh is, it still might have been hard for her to clinch the best actress Oscar and become the first Asian woman to win the coveted award in its 95-year history—if everything hadn’t fallen into place.
Besides her hard work and talent, Yeoh’s history-making win Sunday is a culmination of many forces, according to film experts and critics.
First, Hong Kong’s film industry made her a well-known star in Asia long before Hollywood noticed her.
“I think her Hong Kong experience definitely is crucial to her latest success,” Timmy Chen (陳智廷), director of the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, said of the Malaysia-born Yeoh, commenting that there were few opportunities for Chinese actors in Malaysia's Malay-dominated film industry at the time.
Hong Kong cinema cast her in many action and martial arts films -- from Yes, Madam to Police Story 3: Super Cop -- nurturing her acting and fighting skills, which enabled her to land the role as a Bond girl in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, her first Hollywood film.
Yeoh also benefited from trailblazing Asian-American directors who boldly made films with an Asian theme and cast her in them, including Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Jon Chu’s box office hit Crazy Rich Asians, both of which boosted her fame.
The success of Yeoh, her co-star Vietnamese American Ke Huy Quan -- who became only the second Asian to win an Oscar for best supporting actor -- and their film Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won seven awards including best picture and director, is part of a growing trend in the past few years of “trans-Pacific” Asian directors producing works that are popular not only in Asia, but also the United States, says Jason Coe, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University’s (HKBU) Academy of Film. (KB/VOA)