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Michelle Yeoh’s Role in ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ Was Originally Written for Jackie Chan

The Daniels eventually decided to gender-swap the lead role for their multiverse horror-comedy, which premiered at 2022 SXSW.

Michelle Yeoh, Jackie Chan

Michelle Yeoh and Jackie Chan

Everett Collection

Jackie Chan couldn’t be “Everywhere All at Once,” so it seems.

SXSW hit “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was originally conceived as a vehicle for martial arts icon Chan, according to directing duo Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan (aka Daniels) via The Hollywood Reporter. Yet the duo eventually decided to cast Michelle Yeoh in the lead role as a person who grapples with the ripple effects of (multiple) twisted multiverses while being audited by the IRS.

“At first we were like, ‘Action movie, going to star a dude,'” Scheinert said.

But, Kwan added, “We were having trouble figuring out the casting for the father figure, and one of us started wondering what happens if we take Michelle’s character and flop it and she becomes the protagonist. And the film just opened up in a completely different way.”

The directing partners cited the “very strong” women in their lives (“We’re also both kind of dopey, gentle guys ourselves,” Scheinert said) for the inspiration to re-conceive the roles. “As soon as we switched it, we were like, ‘Oh, now the husband and wife characters are more relatable. Why on earth didn’t we write it this way from the get-go?’” Scheinert continued.

Casting Yeoh was a “bit of a pipe dream,” per Kwan, especially after having Yeoh’s “Supercop” co-star Chan in mind. “We were like, ‘No one else in the world can play this role. If she says no, maybe the movie dies,'” Kwan said.

Upon meeting Yeoh in 2018 after the success of “Swiss Army Man,” Scheinert noted that she felt like “our aunt right away,” with Kwan citing an immediate “very familial energy.”

It also helped that Yeoh is a kickass action star in her own right. “This is really the first time I’ve been doing such physical comedy,” Yeoh said of the role. “It’s like when you get hit for the first time. In a way, it was very liberating. I had all these fearless people around me, so what have I got to be afraid of? Let’s all just dive in and see what happens.”

The former ballerina cited that action films are like one “big dance piece” rooted in stunt choreography.

“The first thing I do when I get on an action film is befriend the stunt team, because they will be the ones watching my back,” Yeoh said. “When I’m up there on the wire, they are the ones who literally have my life in their hands. And over the years, so many have still remained friends. They are the ones who taught me how to protect myself.”

IndieWire’s David Ehrlich called the “Matrix”-inspired film an “instant classic” due to Yeoh’s “monumental performance” that quite literally holds an entire multiverse together.

“‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ allows Yeoh to revisit the best kind of roles she’s ever had,” Ehrlich wrote in his review, “shine in the kind of roles she was never given, and dive head-first into the kind of roles that have always seemed beneath her; first one after the other, and then later all at the same time.”

“Everything Everywhere All at Once” will be released in theaters March 25. IndieWire previously spoke with Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan out of SXSW here.

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