For Michelle Yeoh, "The Lady" is role of lifetime

Sep 14, 2011, 10:07 a.m.
Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh listens to French director Luc Besson speak during a news conference for the film "The Lady" at the 36th Toronto International Film Festival September 12, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Cassese

For "The Lady", Yeoh dove into research about Suu Kyi and even managed to visit her briefly in Myanmar during the production. Initially so in awe she could barely speak, Yeoh said Suu Kyi quickly put her at ease.

"We never spoke about the film. I think it was conscious, on my part, on both our parts, because in no way would we want to put her in danger in case they turn around and say 'how could you be giving information like that?'," Yeoh said.

The film received a standing ovation and cheers at its gala premiere in Toronto on Monday, where Yeoh mixed with fans and Suu Kyi supporters on the red carpet. But early reviews of the movie have been less than positive.

The Hollywood Reporter said it was a "well-intentioned but pedestrian retelling of a stirring true story", while the Guardian said the film "says so little about its subject, it would struggle to pass muster as a TV biopic."

Suu Kyi was released in November 2010 when her latest stint of house arrest expired after elections widely criticized as a sham, since the army made sure it dominated parliament.

With Western countries insisting embargoes against the Myanmar government remain in place until an estimated 2,100 political prisoners are released, cast members said they hope the movie will raise awareness.

"There's so much else going on in the world and the Burmese struggle is in danger of being forgotten. So I hope this film will just bring it up into the spotlight a little more," said British actor David Thewlis, who portrays Aris.

(With additional reporting by Claire Sibonney; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

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