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Toronto 2011: 'The Lady,' starring Michelle Yeoh, finds a buyer

September 14, 2011 |  8:03 pm

The lady michelle yeoh

"The Lady," French director Luc Besson's new film about Burmese dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, will be coming to U.S. theaters before long. Cohen Media Group inked a deal Wednesday for U.S. distribution rights to the film, which stars Michelle Yeoh as the Nobel Peace laureate.

The film, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, focuses on the years between 1988, when Suu Kyi returned from England to her homeland and took up the campaign for democracy, and 1999, when her British husband, Michael Aris (played in the film by David Thewlis), died of cancer. It chronicles the personal sacrifices Suu Kyi made to remain in Myanmar.

Those involved with the film clearly have hopes for an Oscar nomination for Yeoh, the multilingual former Miss Malaysia known for her roles in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "Tomorrow Never Dies." Yeoh said this week in Toronto that to prepare for the role, she studied the Burmese language for six months (and learned a British accent as well), lost weight and visited Suu Kyi personally in Myanmar. 

"Preparing for this role was really a very great responsibility because she is such a well-known, iconic figure," Yeoh said at a news conference in Toronto. Among the biggest challenges was delivering, in Burmese, Suu Kyi's well-known 1988 speech at Shweagon Pagoda in Rangoon, Myanmar's capital, Yeoh said. 

Still, she said, the intimate moments were perhaps even more significant. "I hope we showed the real human side of her," Yeoh said.

Judging by early reviews, though, the film may face a bit of an uphill climb. Hollywood Reporter reviewer David Rooney called it "a well-intentioned but pedestrian retelling of a stirring true story" and said "Yeoh radiates regality, poise, compassion and quiet conviction, but never generates much of a charge." Reviewer Justin Chang predicted in Variety that "a marketing campaign emphasizing Michelle Yeoh's performance in the title role will precede muted public reception."


Toronto 2011: Real-life drama behind Michelle Yeoh's 'The Lady'

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-- Julie Makinen

Photo: Michelle Yeoh in "The Lady." Credit: Vincent Perez © 2010 EuropaCorp/Left Bank Pictures/France 2 Cinéma

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