A Star in action, and in full force. For her new sci-fi comedy, Michelle Yeoh unleashes the power of everything.

The flustered, disheveled, curmudgeonly heroine of ''Everything Everywhere All at Once'' would seem to bear a little resemblance to the practised martial artist from ''Supercop'' who can knockout two bad guys at once with a single airborne split-kick.

IN 1995, many years into working as an action star, Michelle Yeoh plummeted from an 18-foot overpass and nearly ended her career. It was her first role in a character-driven drama, playing the lead in ''The Stunt Woman'' directed by Ann Hui, a prominent filmmaker of the Hong Kong New Wave.

The script called for her to channel nearly a decade of experience as a martial artist into the character of Ah Kam, a stunt woman working her way into the film industry.

The scene was crucial : As Ah Kam hesitated over the performance of a daunting on-camera stunt, the character played by Sammo Hung, a legend of kung fu cinema, would push her, and she would fall over the ledge onto the bed of a passing truck.

''When it's an easy stunt,'' that's when things go really wrong.

One day in Hong Kong, a friend was having dinner with the entrepreneur and film producer Dickson Poon, who told her that he was short on actresses. Her friend took a photo of Yeoh from her wallet and started singing her praises.

Yeoh got on a plane to meet with Poon and the next day she was shooting a wristwatch commercial with Jackie Chan, outbiking and outriding him through a lakeside landscape.

In 1984 she was cast in an action film, ''The Owl vs Bumbo,'' as a damsel in distress. As Yeoh watched the sequel sequences, she recognized the underlying movements. ''It's rhythm,'' she recalled thinking. ''It's choreography. It's timing.''

She was demure, longhaired, a more obvious candidate for a love interest, but the action attracted her. ''SO, I SAID,' I would love to try.' Within a year, she was the lead in her own kung fu movie,'' Yes, madam.''

In 1988, after Yeoh starred in a half-dozen action films made with Poon's studio, D&B Films, she married Poon and retired from acting to start a family; she didn't think she could juggle being an actor, wife and mother.

Yeoh was surprised to find that she was still in demand after several years away from the industry, and she leapt back into acting with renewed purpose.

In 1992, she starred alongside Jackie Chan in the internationally distributed ''Supercop'' - a milestone in the mainstreaming of  the martial arts film in the West. -followed by major roles in a nearly dozen other action-heavy titles.

By the end of the decade, Yeoh had mastered Hong Kong cinema, in which quickness and precision blend with flashy, playful daring. But it was '' Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger'' that made her a superstar.

In it, she had to achieve an ethereal, almost immaterial quality very different from the rough-and-tumble choreography of street fighting.  Yeoh trades intricate volleys of strikes and blocks, at one point even running down and across a vertical courtyard wall in pursuit of her masked opponent.

''Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'' led to a new set of internationally minded dramatic roles, in which Yeoh tended to embody beautiful, polished women. 

She played the largehearted elite geisha Mameha in ''Memoirs of a Geisha''; the now - fallen Burmese leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Luc Besson's biopic ''The Lady''; a mystical warrior master in Marvel's ''Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings''; and the chilly Elenor Young in ''Crazy Rich Asians,'' a future mother-in-law bound by the custom and propriety, whose rigidity masks her own struggle with what's expected of her.

Yeoh won high acclaim for these performances, with the critic A.O.Scott calling her ''one of the great international movie stars of the past quarter-century.''

But bending her deeply ingrained poise into a more ungainly, everyday shape - while continuing to kickass - may be Yeoh's most complicated assignment yet.

The World Students Society thanks author Alexandra Kleeman.


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