Hong Kong film legend Sammo Hung recently commented on Michelle Yeoh winning the Best Actress award at the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday.
“I’m very happy for her,” said Hung, 71, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “She had talent from the very beginning and we could all see that. We have never had many Chinese people standing on this [Oscars] stage. I hope this means there will be many more from now on.”
Hung first encountered the 60-year-old Oscar winner in 1984 at a screen test for “The Owl vs. Bombo,” an action comedy film he was set to both direct and star in.
Yeoh, who was 22 years old at the time, had just won Miss Malaysia the previous year and was looking to enter the Hong Kong film industry after injuries cut her ballet dreams short.
Hung recalled that Yeoh was easy to work with from the start, saying, “My boss just said here is a girl from Malaysia we want to work with. After that first role we just really wanted to see how far we could go with her. We thought immediately, ‘Why not see if she can become an action star?’”
In 1985, Yeoh was cast alongside Hung and Jackie Chan in the film “Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars.” Later that year, Hung chose Yeoh to star as a lead in the action-comedy film “Yes, Madam,” which Hung produced.
“Yes, Madam” would go on to become the top-grossing film in Hong Kong that year, eventually spawning eight sequels. Yeoh reportedly refused to have a stunt double while filming, and in order to prepare for the role of a gangster-fighting inspector, she learned martial arts and trained for up to eight hours a day.
At the time, Yeoh was credited under her alias, Michelle Khan. She was credited as Michelle Yeoh in films starting with the 1997 James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies,” in which she plays the character Wai Lin.
She always worked very hard, from the very beginning. She’s also had luck and timing. She arrived when the Hong Kong film market was very good, and there were lots of opportunities. She worked hard and she used her talents. When the Hong Kong film industry wasn’t doing well, she found opportunities in America — so she took a chance. Everything Michelle has she has made for herself.
Hung has worked with Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Yuen Biao, among others, over a decades-long career as an actor, director and fight choreographer. He is renowned for having provided big breaks for many of his peers by casting or employing them in his movies.
Hung was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Asian Film Awards on Sunday.