Michelle Yeoh Refused to Retire Despite Her Roles Getting 'Smaller': 'Do Not Tell Me What to Do'

Michelle Yeoh is up for Best Actress at the Academy Awards for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once

Michelle Yeoh at the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton on January 10, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.
Photo: Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty

Michelle Yeoh is reaffirming that older women should not be counted out for serious acting roles.

During 60-year-old Yeoh's appearance on The Los Angeles Times' The Envelope podcast, the Everything Everywhere All at Once star praised the film's co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert for giving her an opportunity to work in a starring role almost four decades into her acting career.

"You know, as you get older, the roles get smaller," Yeoh said on the podcast. "It seems like the numbers go up and these things go narrow and then you start getting relegated to the side more and more."

"You know, as you get older, people start saying, 'Oh yeah, you should retire. You should do this. You should –' No, guys. Do not tell me what to do," Yeoh added. "I should be in control of what I am capable of, right?"

Asked whether anybody had actually advised Yeoh to retire prior to Everything Everywhere, the actress said women in Hollywood "have to be smart about" their careers as they age to avoid the industry leaving them behind.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/Shutterstock (12876015e) Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Jonathan Ke Quan Everything Everywhere All at Once - 2022
Stephanie Hsu, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Moviestore/Shutterstock

"They don't say it in so many — why would they dare say that in so many words, right?" Yeoh told podcast host Mark Olsen. "But when you don't get the roles and you're just sitting there."

During the conversation, Yeoh cited Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman as examples of actresses who started producing their own projects to stay active in the industry.

"Because they are not going to wait at the sidelines. Because they saw that coming as well," she said. "You have to be smart about it. And if you don't make it happen and you wait, then you could be waiting for a very long time."

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"So no one has actually said, 'Oh, well, you know, you're getting to be that age,' " Yeoh added, noting that she wants filmmakers to view older women in the industry "as great actors and actors who can help you tell your story."

Yeoh previously spoke to her views on Hollywood's perception of women as they age in a January interview with CBS Sunday Mornings.

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"I've had a spectacular career. But you don't want it to just slow down or end because you have gotten to a certain age," she said. "And you start getting scripts where the guy, the hero, is still in his 50s, 60s — some even more. And then they get to go on the adventure with your daughter."

"Then you go, like, 'No, c'mon guys, give me a chance,' " Yeoh added. "Because I feel that I am still able to do all that."

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