'The Lady' and Me

By Streib, Lauren | Newsweek, April 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

'The Lady' and Me


Streib, Lauren, Newsweek


Byline: Lauren Streib

Michelle Yeoh on transforming into Aung San Suu Kyi.

In the film The Lady you play Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democratic revolutionary. Why did you want to portray such a significant historical figure?

I think most of all, as an Asian woman, I was particularly proud of her and considered her to be a role model. In this day and age we all need to know someone that will be our hero.

There was a bit of serendipity in your landing the part.

I read an article about writers working on a script about Daw Suu ["Daw" is a Burmese honorific], and I begged my agent to find them. Fortunately they were also looking for me. I studied her life. In the last 15 years or so, since she'd been under house arrest, I had forgotten a lot about her and I needed to be reminded. [The director] Luc Besson and I agreed that we would create the film and hold on to her belief: "Please use your liberty to promote ours." She's very shy. I'm sure she'd rather the movie was not focused on her.

How did you prepare for the role?

I switched into Daw Suu mode for six or seven months. I did an hour and a half of cardio every morning. She's always been a very slender woman; I had to lose eight kilograms and trained like a marathon runner. Then I sat down with an English tutor for an hour and a half, then a Burmese tutor. I ended the day with another two hours of cardiovascular exercise. …

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