Michelle Yeoh has made history. The legendary Hong Kong actor won the Oscar for Best Actress at the 95th Academy Awards for her star turn in “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” becoming the first Asian woman and second woman of color to win the award. The star took the stage of Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre on Sunday night to accept the trophy.
Yeoh’s win comes after a close race between her and her closest competitor this awards season, Cate Blanchett and her own powerhouse performance in “Tár.” Additional honorees in the category include Michelle Williams for her performance in Spielberg’s “The Fabelmans,” Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe in “Blonde,” and Andrea Riseborough’s dark horse and somewhat controversial nomination for “To Leslie.”
When Yeoh was officially nominated for “Everything Everywhere” in January, she became the first Asian nominee in the category. Although Merle Oberon, an actor of part-Sri Lankan descent, was nominated in 1935 for “The Dark Angel,” Oberon famously hid her heritage in order to avoid discrimination, and her background wasn’t discovered until after her death. With her win, Yeoh is only the second woman of color to win Best Actress, after Halle Berry won the trophy for her performance in the 2001 drama “Monster’s Ball.”
The Best Actress Oscar is the latest trophy Yeoh can add to her collection from this year’s award season, which also includes wins at the Golden Globes, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Independent Spirit Awards, and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. She was also nominated at the British Academy Film Awards and the Critics Choice Movie Awards.
Yeoh’s historic nomination in Best Actress was one of 11 for “Everything Everywhere,” making the sci-fi drama comedy from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (popularly known as the Daniels) the most nominated film of the year. Besides Best Actress, the categories it was recognized in include: Best Picture, Best Director (for the Daniels), Best Supporting Actor (for Ke Huy Quan), two Best Supporting Actress nods (for Jamie Lee Curtis and Stephanie Hsu), Best Original Screenplay (also for the Daniels), Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing.
In an interview with IndieWire following her SAG award win on February 27, Yeoh spoke about what the role of Evelyn — a Chinese-American immigrant with a strained relationship with her daughter — meant to her, and the response she’s received from viewers of the film.
“For us to be promoting a movie for a year, it’s hard work. But it is easy work when people respond to it, and respond in such a beautiful way,” Yeoh told IndieWire. “I have mothers that come up and say, ‘I’m not sure I understand your movie, but you were pretty interesting. Pretty good.’ And then they say, ‘But the most important thing is my daughter saw it, and she called me, and I haven’t spoken to her for a few months,’ because the mother-daughter relationship is always complicated already. This movie has somehow started a healing process, and opened a communication platform for husbands and wives, for mothers and daughters, for fathers and daughters, for people.”
Yeoh, whose other well-known work includes “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” has a large slate of projects coming out on the heels of her Oscar win. This year will see her voice a robot in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” and star in the Agatha Christie adaptation “A Haunting in Venice.” She’s also set to head to Pandora in both “Avatar 3” and “Avatar 4,” which are expected for release in 2024 and 2026, and to meet the Wizard of Oz in the two-part adaptation of hit musical “Wicked,” which will release in 2024 and 2025.
“Everything Everywhere,” premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival on March 11 to critical acclaim, with many singling out Yeoh’s performance as one of her best. In his review out of the festival, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich called it “the greatest performance that Michelle Yeoh has ever given,” one that “allows Yeoh to revisit the best kind of roles she’s ever had, shine in the kind of roles she was never given, and dive head-first into the kind of roles that have always seemed beneath her,” and praised the legendary actor for “never [allowing] us to get lost as [Evelyn] careens across the multiverse.”
In IndieWire’s list of the 25 best films of 2022, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” ranked at No. 3. Ehrlich wrote that the film was “overstuffed as its title implies, even more juvenile than its pedigree suggests, and so creatively unbound from the minute it starts that it makes Daniels’ previous efforts seem like they were made with Bressonian restraint by comparison.”
“Everything Everywhere All At Once” is currently available to stream on Paramount+ and Showtime.