Michelle Yeoh is one of the biggest female action stars of all time, with everything from martial arts classics to James Bond films under her belt. But in recent years, she began to feel like she was no longer being considered for the roles she deserved.
“You get to that stage in your life and your career where you feel: ‘I’m being sort of overlooked here,’ because you are now relegated to these kinds of [minor] roles,” she said in an interview with The Guardian. “The guys seem to be doing it. They’re still like superheroes in their 60s and 70s. Why does a woman not get the opportunity to be that?”
But Yeoh recently got precisely the kind of opportunity she was talking about with “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the hit multiverse action comedy that allowed her to show off her martial arts skills and dramatic chops in equal measure.
While Yeoh says the film is one of the highlights of her career, the role almost went in a very different direction. Before writer-director duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert approached Yeoh about playing laundromat owner Evelyn, they originally envisioned Jackie Chan as the film’s protagonist. The duo even traveled to China to meet with the legendary martial arts star, but when he was unavailable, they rewrote the movie with Yeoh as the hero.
It clearly turned out well for both Yeoh and Daniels, but the actress is not letting her friend Chan forget that he turned down such a popular role. She revealed that he recently reached out to her about the film, and she took the opportunity to gloat.
“Jackie actually texted me,” she said. “And he says: ‘Wow, I hear amazing things about your movie. Did you know that the boys came to see me in China?’ And I said: ‘Yes, your loss, my bro!'”
Kwan and Scheinert have always been open about the fact that Chan was their original choice for the role. Although in a recent interview, they were careful to note that the film became much better once they decided to flip the genders of the protagonists.
“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,” Kwan said. “And the film just opened up in a completely different way.”