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Michelle Yeoh Accepts Santa Barbara Film Fest’s Kirk Douglas Award: “You Can’t Let Fear Stop You”

“In the end, my hope is that maybe, hopefully, my work has encouraged, comforted, or inspired others in the way that I kirk douglas‘ did for me”, michelle yeohthe veteran actress who is currently generating great anticipation at the Oscar for best actress for her performance in Everything everywhere at oncehe said Friday night during an emotional acceptance speech for the 15th Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Yeoh, a rare talent who has been equally beloved by audiences and critics throughout his career, was speaking at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara in front of an audience that included about 30 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. including the Academy. President janet yang and local legend christopher lloyd – and other notables like Friends co-creator david crane.

This was the first Kirk Douglas Award ceremony, a fundraiser for SBIFF educational initiatives, in three years due to the global pandemic, and generated a record number of donations (including a generous $10,000 contribution from the Yeoh herself, announced during her speech to applause of thanks). It was also his first since the death of his namesake on February 5, 2020, taking place on what would have been the Golden Age legend’s 106th birthday.

SBIFF director Roger Durlingwho worked closely with Douglas to create the award; previous winners have included both Douglas and her son. michael douglas, John Travolta, ed harris, Quentin Tarantino, Harrison Ford, robert deniro, Whitaker Forest, jessica lang, jane fonda, warren beatty, judi dench, hugh jackman Y Martin Scorsese — said the actor, who was fearless on and off screen, would have been overjoyed to see him recognize Yeoh, who shares those same attributes. And he added: “Just like Kirk, she is truly an international superstar and icon.”

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Amongst superbly edited montages of Yeoh’s work that often had audiences cheering, several of Yeoh’s works Everything everywhere at once collaborators paid tribute to him. Producer jonathan wang announced his “strength, grace, and power.” Co-writer/co-director daniel kwan opined, “This is Michelle’s night, but honestly, to us, this feels like Michelle’s year.” And co-writer/co-director daniel scheinert he marveled at her work ethic, noting, “She’s literally in every scene of the movie. I think she had half a day off during an eight week shoot.”

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So, at the end of a week in which Weather magazine named Yeoh “Icon of the Year” and the members of the National Board of Review chose her as the best actress of the year, she accepted her honor with characteristic humility: “I only found out that I was the only winner of an award tonight”, he admitted, having assumed that it was a ceremony in which numerous honors would be presented. “I couldn’t have imagined that so many of you would have shown up for me.” Yeoh thanked Durling, Michael Douglas and the committee that now oversees the Kirk Douglas Award for choosing her to receive it. And he highlighted one of his favorite quotes of Kirk’s, “You must be brave enough to fail,” noting that it had also been applied to his own career by performing daring stunts in Hong Kong action films and the James Bond film from 1997. The tomorrow Never Die:: “You have to be brave enough to fail, and you cannot let fear stop you”.

Yeoh, who turned 60 this year, then shared a bit of wisdom he said he’s picked up over time: “If there’s one thing that’s certain about life, it’s that any it’s safe.” The state of the film industry she works in today would have been unimaginable when it began decades ago, she explained, commenting: “We may finally be turning the corner of the glass ceiling of age. I’m blessed and lucky to continue to be actress at a time when women’s voices and talents are stronger and more visible than ever. And I’m so grateful and lucky that today the importance of representation is finally being accepted as well. How essential, enlightening, and right it is finally seeing different cultures and different places and different backgrounds and abilities represented on screen. And I’m incredibly proud that maybe, just maybe, I played a small part in all of that.”

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Yeoh closed thanking him Everything everywhere at once collaborators for the role of Evelyn in that film, which he called “a precious gift and a great challenge,” and everyone who attended the Kirk Douglas Award ceremony, too: “They’ve made me stand a little taller and a little more proud of what I have tried to achieve.”


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