Malaysians mocked today Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh after the actress, who previously endorsed Datuk Seri Najib Razak, was announced as the producer of the film version of Billion Dollar Whale, a book about the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal that has engulfed the former prime minister.
After the media reported that SK Global’s Ivanhoe Pictures, the company that co-financed and co-produced Crazy Rich Asians had obtained the film rights to the book with Yeoh – who had starred in that film – at the helm, many took to venting online against her involvement in Billion Dollar Whale.
Netizens said she was not fit to produce a film on the 1MDB scandal as she had previously supported Najib and Barisan Nasional (BN).
The backlash dominated the conversation on social media, especially Twitter, with many calling Yeoh an opportunist and branded her involvement as insulting.
Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel was among the first to criticise Yeoh, questioning the former Bond girl’s integrity and support for Najib and BN before the 14th general election.
“Cheap opportunists like this should have no place in the new Malaysia!! Mana ada integrity? Before regime change she was all over Najib and co… ,” she wrote on Twitter.
Actor and writer Kee Thuan Chye also took Yeoh to task for her involvement in the film.
“Now we know Michelle Yeoh’s true colours!… She used to be a strong supporter of Najib. Looks like she now wants to get into the good books of the new Malaysian government that she supported Najib against,” he said on Facebook.
“She wants to win back the hearts of Malaysians and get applauded for doing this project.
“Shame on her. Don’t let her get away with her hypocrisy. Let’s boycott the film when it’s released,” he added.
In 2013, Yeoh, the daughter of former Perak MCA chairman, the late Datuk Yeoh Kian Teik, had faced the same situation when she sang praises of Najib.
She defended her decision to openly support Najib, saying everyone was free to voice their opinions in Malaysia.
Her remarks came after she was criticised by netizens then for expressing support for Najib at a gathering organised by the Federation of Chinese Descendents of Selangor.
“We have a leader here who has done so many good things and will do more.
“I hope from the bottom of my heart that he will remain prime minister and I ask all of you to give him a strong mandate,” she had said then.
Last January, the goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme and star of the 2011 Aung San Suu Kyi biopic, The Lady, again praised Najib, this time for his handling of the Rohingya refugee crisis.
“We are very proud to recognise the fact that he was the one who championed this in the first place, as a good neighbour and doing the right thing as a human being.
“Our PM has shown great leadership together with the Bangladeshi government, with our partners in Saudi (Arabia) and UAE (United Arab Emirates),” she said.
Last week, Yeoh uploaded a photograph of herself with Billion Dollar Whale, which was written by Wall Street Journal journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope, calling it ä “fascinating book”.
Screen Daily reported that the first-look deal includes producing, directing and choosing acting opportunities for Yeoh, in partnership with SK Global and her company, Mythical Films.
The response to Yeoh’s involvement in the much-anticipated Billion Dollar Whale film has been mostly negative.
Even Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh and Lembah Pantai MP Fahmi Fadzil chimed in with many “punny” responses.
Meanwhile, the Sarawak Report has urged the public to wait for its 1MDB film, not the one by Yeoh.
“The people who wrote a book alleging that Jho Low ‘fooled a prime minister, the banks and the world’ have chosen a BN supporting actress Michelle Yeoh to produce it!” Sarawak Report tweeted.
“Suggest people watch the other upcoming film The Sarawak Report for the real story!” it added.
The tweet follows a series of blogposts where the whistleblower website editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown alleged that Billion Dollar Whale co-author Tom Wright had received sensitive 1MDB documents from her source without crediting The Sarawak Report despite promises to do so.
Rewcastle-Brown also revealed plans to option her book The Sarawak Report: The Inside Story of the 1MDB Exposé for a film.