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Action star Michelle Yeoh takes on Aung San Suu Kyi

updated 6:32 AM EST, Sat November 12, 2011
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Actor Michelle Yeoh plays Aung San Suu Kyi in new film
  • "The Lady" depicts life of Burmese pro-democracy leader
  • Yeoh says she spent years researching the role before meeting Suu Kyi

(CNN) -- While playing the part of Aung San Suu Kyi in biopic "The Lady", Michelle Yeoh felt as if she had "lived" with the Burmese pro-democracy leader for years.

But when it came to actually meeting the real Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 2010, Yeoh didn't have a ready line.

"I wasn't quite sure how I should react or what I should do," she says.

Yet on meeting her, Suu Kyi immediately put her at ease.

Meeting Aung San Suu Kyi

"We hugged and then she said 'Oh I'm so sorry for the mess, it's been non-stop, things are happening, people are coming to see me all the time'."

Yeoh had visited Suu Kyi at her home soon after her years of house arrest in Yangon had ended, but she says that she didn't discuss the film she was making. Yeoh says that was in order to protect her as it wasn't known how the ruling government in Myanmar would react.

"It wasn't an interview or an interrogation to that point. It was just an indulgence on my part to be able to see someone that I admire and learned to love."

"So we sat down on the couch and she's very affectionate. Even though she's so petite and slim, you feel a great inner strength and a sense of ease about her."

Michelle Yeoh is better known for her parts in action films, from playing opposite Piece Brosnan's James Bond in "Tomorrow Never Dies" to martial arts blockbuster "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon."

To try and portray such a renowned and revered figure was one the biggest challenges of Yeoh's life. To accurately play the part she had to learn Burmese to ensure the gravity of Suu Kyi's speeches were not lost.

"This was the role of a lifetime," says Yeoh. "This was something I had to do right and I was completely committed to it."

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