From Ultimate DVD #18disc review here

Surviving knee injuries, corset fittings and high-wire antics, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Michelle Yeoh talks to Ultimate DVD about it all..

Michelle Yeoh assumes the attacking position

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Michelle Yeoh takes a deep breath. “Bumps on the head,” she says. “One of my vertebrae is off. Both knees. Dislocated shoulder. Ruptured artery in the ankle. That’s about it. And I love what I do.”

The celebrated star of countless Hong Kong action movies (see right) is actually recounting an extensive list of injuries she has incurred during her career. Yeoh’s most recent film, which saw her most recent injury, is the international hit and award-winning Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, a majestic tale based upon the fourth instalment of a five-part novel by Chinese author Wang Du Lu.

Yeoh’s character, Yu Shu Lien, is a respected fighter charged by the powerful warrior Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) to deliver his legendary sword to a friend as a gift. The story concerns theft, a formidable enemy and a deep, and unconsummated love between Shu Lien and Mu Bai, a theme invented for the screenplay, as Yeoh’s part did not actually appear in the original novel.

“When Ang said to me, ‘Sense and Sensibility with martial arts’ I was completely sold,” she says of her willingness to take the role, “and he kept his promise. Normally when I do an action film you see me fighting from day one until the end. In this film there were only two important fight sequences [for my character].”

It was during the filming of the first of those, an incredible display of agility and grace which sees Shu Lien and her opponent gliding across the slate rooftops of Beijing, that the actress suffered a distressing injury.

Kneeding Medical Attention

“We were working nights,” she recalls. “I was on wires. It was not a difficult stunt, it was one of those action jump and kicks that I do maybe 30 times a day just for practise. I feel it was different elements coming together at the wrong time.

“When I kicked [the stuntman], his leg went under me which was not supposed to happen. Next thing I knew I was landing and it felt that someone just had a club and went ‘boom’ on my knee.”

Yeoh’s agony was compounded when her specialist delivered the news that she needed surgery – the worst possible thing that could happen during the production of a big budget film.

“I said to him, ‘I’ve been waiting a year and a half to do this movie. I’ve been training for nine months. This is not happening!’ I called up Ang and he said to me, ‘Don’t worry, your knee is the most important thing. You make sure you get it well and we will wait for you.’ That was the magic word. Nothing would be worse than not being able to complete this film with him.“

After surgery and a month of painful intensive rehabilitation, Yeoh was back on the set.

“They had to reschedule everything. We had to extend the shooting days just to fit into the three months mark. The fight sequence that at the end inside my family home, there was an original house where they shot, but because I couldn’t get there they had to rebuild the whole set in Beijing.”

Yeoh’s injury was an unfortunate but not necessarily unusual result of starring in such a physically demanding film. Ang Lee’s tribute to the martial arts films of his childhood, Crouching Tiger presents an almost dream like world where characters appear to disobey the laws of gravity. The jaw-dropping fight sequences were choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping, the man behind the dazzling action of The Matrix and the director who defined the style of many Hong Kong features, who trained the cast in working in harnesses suspended on wires...

Michelle Yeoh

Tomorrow Never Dies, co-starring Michelle Yeoh

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Read the full interview in Ultimate DVD #18

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