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James Bond Alum Michelle Yeoh Recalls Playing A Bond Girl In Tomorrow Never Dies And How The Role Was Evolving At The Time

Michelle Yeoh in Tomorrow Never Dies
(Image credit: MGM)

There are some TV and film franchises that reach the point where they cease to simply be entertainment and become cultural phenomenons, and the James Bond franchise (and, comparably, the Doctor Who franchise) certainly fits that bill. The franchise has welcomed some big names over the years, including Michelle Yeoh, who starred in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies. Now, the celebrated actress has opened up about what it was like flying into the UK to film the spy flick with Pierce Brosnan as well as how the Bond girl role was evolving at that point.

Michelle Yeoh has had an impressive career since her time as a Bond girl back in the ‘90s and recently reflected on her body of work and upcoming film, Everything All At Once, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. It was only natural that her turn in the 007 franchise would be brought up and, as she recalled, the UK was very welcoming towards her:

We had such a great time filming the Bond movie. The most fun was when I was going through immigration [in the U.K.], and I said, 'I'm going to be in a Bond movie.' You can see their face change! 'You are going to be a Bond girl? Welcome to London!'

British audiences take a lot of pride in the 007 series, and they typically hold the actors involved in high regard. So it's nice to hear that the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star was shown so much love when she arrived to shoot the Roger Spottiswoode-directed film. There's a lot of pressure when it comes to joining something so iconic, and the positive public reception may have taken the edge off for the actress.

Of course, Michelle Yeoh's casting in Tomorrow Never Dies back in the ‘90s was not only a career milestone for her but also for the franchise as a whole. The Bond girl position was going through an evolution. Today, they've gone from being sex objects to capable, multidimensional characters and diversely cast characters. Yeoh's Wai Lin, a spy, is still one of the best female characters the series has produced and is definitely, equal to that of Bond himself. In the same interview, Yeoh explained that the women in her movie matched the changing times, saying:

They thought Bond had to be very present in this time where the women are all stepping up, and the women are on equal terms in every way, and there were just no questions asked about that.

Bond girls have always been a popular aspect of the films, though it's nice to see that actresses are getting more substantial roles now. It’s Bond women of the past like Michelle Yeoh that have helped move the Bond franchise into a more open space, where even the possibility of a woman being cast to lead the film series moving forward is tangible.

It’s hard to tell which way the Bond bosses will go, but it’s likely that whoever it is will receive a UK welcome like the one Michelle Yeoh received back in the day. Until we hear info on the next movie, though, you can revisit past installments. All of the James Bond movies are pretty spread out when it comes to streaming, but two of Daniel Craig’s Bond films are available for those of us with a Netflix subscription. You can also rent Tomorrow Never Dies on Amazon Prime.

Carlie Hoke
Carlie Hoke

Constantly thinking about books, coffee, and the existential dread I feel from Bo Burnham’s Inside.  While writing I’m also raising a chaotic toddler, who may or may not have picked up personality traits from watching one too many episodes of Trailer Park Boys.