Malaysian acting legend Michelle Yeoh recently revealed in an interview with Entertainment Weekly why she has stopped doing the death-defying stunts she used to.
During the interview, the 59-year-old star divulged how dangerous the stunts she did herself were in the 1992 Hong Kong action film “Supercop.”
The film, which is known for its incredible, over-the-top action, was helmed by director and former stunt coordinator Stanley Tong. In it, Yeoh and co-star Jackie Chan play law enforcers who take on an influential drug cartel leader.
One particularly memorable scene involved Yeoh riding a motorcycle toward a moving train.
“What was I thinking? I was swinging at the side of trucks. I was riding a motorcycle onto a moving train. I was doing the most insane stunts,” she shared.
The danger was all too real for Yeoh, who said she almost died filming one of the sequences of the scene in which the actor jumps from the moving truck’s roof onto the hood of a speeding convertible car that Chan was driving.
“In Asia at that time, we don’t really do rehearsals, we don’t have weeks of preparation. We learn the stunt and we do it,” she noted. “So you park the [truck] and Jackie’s car next to each other and you look at it and it’s about a six-foot fall, it’s not much, and you think, I could do this. But once the two cars are moving, you go, oh, wow, this is a completely different experience. I’m not standing still, the car isn’t, nothing is still. I don’t know whether it was crazy, a moment of insanity, [but] the thought that went through my head was, you’re never going to know how it feels until you try it.”
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
The first time they did the take, Yeoh managed to land on the hood but bounced off the car and fell. As she hit the pavement, she barely avoided getting hit by vehicles following from behind.
“The windscreen was supposed to shatter, and that would have helped me have a break,” she narrated. “But the windscreen didn’t shatter, I had nowhere to hold onto, and I kept sliding off the car. All I remember was like ‘duhn!’ on the ground.”
According to Yeoh, she was lucky not to have her head hit the road first.
“Then, I hear Jackie,” she continued. “He was like, ‘OK, OK, that’s it! Enough! We are finished for the day! We’re not doing anymore! This is stupid! This is ridiculous! We’re not doing it!'”
But Yeoh, who said Tong and she had known each other since the filmmaker was still a stuntman, knew what she was capable of. Knowing that she was willing to have another go at the stunt, the director pursued a second take.
“When you fall off a horse, you jump back, right on, right away,” she went on. “So we went up and got it in the next take.”
The rest, as they say, is filmmaking history.
At age 59, Yeoh has maintained her youthful passion and vigor for filming very demanding scenes; however, when it comes to dangerous stunt scenes nowadays, she is now happy to let the stunt performers do it for her.
“I am not a stunt person, per se,” she concluded. “I have to sometimes step back and say, ‘Please let the professionals do their job.’ I have to talk myself down.”