from Fox Searchlight Pictures
Born in Malaysia in 1962, Michelle spoke English and Malay before Chinese. She trained as a ballet dancer in England, later won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant, and began appearing in Hong Kong movies in the mid-'80's under the name Michelle Khan. In 1988 she married Dickson Poon, a wealthy executive at D&B films, and retired from acting. (Marrying a wealthy man and retiring at the height of one's career was common practice for Hong Kong actresses.) She returned to film-making after their divorce in 1992.
Never trained as a martial artist, she has used her experience as a dancer for fighting sequences, as Ziyi Zhang also would in subsequent years. Michelle does most of her own stunts and has been injured several times, once very seriously in a fall while preparing for a scene. See her more than hold her own with Jackie Chan in Police Story 3: Super Cop.
Also well worth watching is Wing Chun (1994); some of her moves are beyond incredible. For a triple treat of Asian ladies, see Heroic Trio and it's nominal "sequel" Executioners. Both of these fun films were made in 1993 and star Michelle, Maggie Cheung and the late Anita Mui. And of course, there's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is not only not to be missed but should be viewed periodically over time. In my opinion, it's right up there with The Seven Samurai as the greatest Asian film ever made.
Sunshine is only Michelle's second non-Asian film (since I consider Memoirs of a Geisha to be "Asian" in theme, even though it's spoken in English). Her first Western film was 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies. Now I've been a fan of the Bond films since Dr. No, and I think very highly of the four in which Pierce Brosnan starred. But let's be clear: it was so obvious in Tomorrow Never Dies that Michelle Yeoh could so kick his butt!
At this point in her career, it seems likely that Michelle will looking for more dramatic roles and phasing herself out of the hard core action/martial arts genres. Here's hoping that Sunshine will assist her in that transition and that it'll open doors to other non-Asian-themed films for her. At the same time, I hope we'll be blessed with at least a few more flicks of her layin' down some bad Asian whup-ass action!