Michael Yeoh was on a Zoom call Tuesday with his “Everything Everything All at Ones” family — including his co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Kay Hui Kwan and James Hong, and directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan — when he got the news. Her “burst with joy”: She was nominated for Best Actress for her role as a cantankerous laundry owner in the film, a sci-fi acid trip through time, space and the human experience.
“Even though they’re in America and I’m in Paris right now we want to hold each other’s hands so we’re screaming at the top of our heads,” she said by phone shortly after the nominations were announced. Not surprisingly: “Everywhere and Everything at Once” led the day with 11 nominations, including Best Picture.
Should she win, Yes – who was born in Malaysia and became a movie star in Asia, with global hits in films like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018) – is the first Asian woman to win the lead. Actress Oscar. (She beat her First Golden Globe earlier this month.)
“Ninety-five years of the Oscars,” he said. “Of course, I’m over the moon, but I feel a little sad because we know there have been amazing actresses from Asia before me, and I’m standing on their shoulders.” He added, “I believe this will continue to break that cold glass ceiling endlessly, and we’ll see more and more of it in our faces.”
Yeoh, 60, released last March and became a surprise box office hit amid the pandemic, which resonated in part because it came “at a time when we all need to heal.”
She explained, “We’ve gone through such a crazy, confusing time in our lives, and we needed something to fill us with hope and to make sure we never give up, as long as we can show kindness and compassion and love to each other. On your family.”
Hopes are high for the actress who earlier in the week responded to the mass shooting in Monterey Park, Calif., an Asian American community where Lunar New Year celebrations take place. “At a time when our society should be celebrating new beginnings, we are now mourning,” she posted on Instagram.
When asked about his appointment at a sad time, he said, “One thing we all need is hope,” he said, “that we can always keep our heads up and move forward. Our hearts are so broken for what happened in Monterey Park.
At the heart of the film is a rich mother-daughter relationship, as two characters struggle to navigate very different everyday realities (and very different non-interdimensional realities). Yeo wasn’t surprised that this dynamic resonated with many viewers, but she was touched by its power to heal. Older women have come to him saying that even though they don’t understand the film, it has helped their relationships with their daughters.
Yow recalled a visitor who said her estranged daughter had contacted her after years of not speaking. “We’re now bonded, we’ve got a relationship because of your movie,” Yow recalled the woman saying. “Sometimes when a movie like this comes along, you feel like you’ve cured people, and that’s an amazing award.”
For Yoo, a former stuntwoman who has worked in the industry for decades, “Everything” was a showcase for her many talents. It’s bittersweet to reflect on his long career, “But, other times, I love what I do. I’m passionate about film acting and everything. So, you don’t do it for awards. You do it because you want to put the best out there.
“But sure, please give me an Oscar, man,” she laughed. “It’s a tribute to, never give up. If you believe in yourself, you never give up. It took me 40 years, but it’s here.