From learning a tough language like Burmese to being deported from the country, Michelle Yeoh went through a lot to portray her "hero" Aung San Suu Kyi on the big screen in The Lady and the actress calls it the most passionate film she has ever made.
The 48-year-old actress, who approached French director Luc Besson to helm the film, says it was her commitment to the Burmese leader's cause that helped her go through the challenging journey.
"It was a challenging task playing Suu Kyi. When I found out about a movie regarding Aung San Suu Kyi, as an Asian woman this was the most iconic and inspiring figure I could have played. It was like a dream come true to be able to play a role like this," Michelle told PTI.
The Malaysia-born actress, who has starred in films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of a Geisha, said the part enriched her as an actress as she researched extensively to make her portrayal believable. Michelle went through 200 hours of footage of Suu Kyi.
"It was about being committed to the role. When you are devoted to the story you have to tell it as real as possible. Every time you choose a role you hope that it enriches you. Suu is a heroic figure. It's not enough to just impersonate or look like her. It's her inner strength that needs to be felt. I researched and knew the story, watched her footage. I am her in the film," she said.
So committed she was to portray Suu Kyi in the most authentic manner, Michelle even learnt to speak in Burmese to deliver certain dialogues to show the Nobel peace laureate's connect with the people in her country.
"Learning Burmese was tough as it is not similar to any other Asian language. I was lucky I had an incredible teacher, a Burmese lady who cannot be credited as she lives with her family in Burma. People don't know she helped me with the film. It was also a commitment. It was necessary to say the Shwedagon speech in Burmese to show that she was her father's daughter and even though she had married a foreigner she was there for her country. It was my challenge and my commitment to her. It is the most passionate movie I have ever made," said Michelle.
She has imbibed Suu Kyi's philosophy in life while learning about her struggle, her cause as well as her values and Michelle intends to keep that within herself.
"You feel like holding on to her philosophy in life. Since you have read so much of her, you want to keep her values and beliefs with you. It makes you a better person. She will always be in my heart. She is like a hero to me. I would like to help carry on her fight in my own way."
From the time the first pictures from The Lady were out, Michelle has been complimented on her uncanny resemblance with Suu Kyi and the actress says it has amazed her as well.
"The resemblance with Suu Kyi is a huge compliment. She is a gorgeous woman. Sometimes when I look at the pictures, I get amazed at the similarity. The hair, the costumes and the walk were the tools to portray her more convincingly. Then I had to lose 5 kilos because her son saw me and said 'Meme (mother) is much thinner than you'!"
Michelle says that even her husband Jean Todt is as caring and supportive as Michael Aris was to Suu Kyi.
"He was dealing with two women at the same time. I am not a method actress. But there were certain things I had to do which he had to put up with. I have someone as supportive as Michael Aris. He was as caring because you cannot change and love somebody. He also made sure things went smoothly with the production. He realised how important the film was for me," she said.
Michelle's commitment with the film continues as she has not taken up any new project in order to promote The Lady all over the world. The film, which closed the 42nd International Film Festival of India, will release in almost all Asian countries.
'The Lady' is My Most Passionate Film: Michelle Yeoh
Bohni Bandyopadhyay | Panaji
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