"Memoirs of a Geisha"
"V-Life", June-July issue 2005
Interviews with Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi
by Ginny Chien
Zi and I actually ended up being the last two people on the set (of "Memoirs"). Those last days
were so hard because we had all come from all over the world, and we were so far away from
home. So spending three-and-a-half months with everyone, they became my family. I remember
Rob (Marshall) asking me, "How was it working with Zi back then?" I told him she was like my
little sister, we just had that rapport. So when it came time to start shooting "Memoirs," the
feelings were there. It was very easy for us to jump back into the mix and start up where we left
off. What we had in real life transferred well to the complexities of our onscreen relationship,
which was that of this new geisha and her mentor.
Mameha, the character that I'm playing, is so contained. You don't throw your emotions around
with her. You don't cry in the scene, you cry when you get back to your trailer. I think that's why
I felt a particular connection with Rob (Marshall) because never for one second did he lose his cool.
He has this amazing energy around him.
The first day everyone was on the set, Rob basically said, "You are all here because you are what
I feel is the most perfect match for the role. You were not chosen because of where you come from,
whether that's from Japan or not from Japan or China or wherever." It made for a really happy set.
(Photos of Michelle from the magazine can be seen at
Working on "Memoirs" was wonderful because Michelle and I had more time to have conversations. There's still pressure (on the set), but this time it's more about the language barriers. We did hair and makeup in the same trailer every day, so we had many opportunities to talk and catch up on everything that's been happening since "Crouching Tiger." We were like girlfriends, all of the girls, just talking and laughing all the time.
Rob (Marshall) was very patient. Everyone had their interpreters on the set - Chinese for me and (Gong) Li, and Japanese for Ken (Watanabe) and Koji (Yakusho) - so it was very hectic. If he didn't have enough patience, I can't imagine how this would have worked. Like Zhang Yimou ("Hero"), he's always thinking about his actors and looking out for them, protecting their emotional well-being. I think that is why anyone who has ever worked with Rob is so appreciative of him.