Anyone who has met Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng knows that the actress' most striking asset is not the long silky hair or that lethal back kick, but that genuine, beaming smile she always has for everyone. These days, of course, there are more reasons for that smile to be even more radiant. The action actress is in the midst of filming for her international debut, the latest James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, which stars Pierce Brosnan. And, she will be one of the first 'Bond girls' who will probably shake and stir 007 quite a bit. She has also been voted one of the Most Beautiful People in the World by People Magazine. 'Oh, no . . .' she groaned when the subject was brought up during a set visit in Bangkok recently. 'Pierce has been teasing me endlessly about it,' Yeoh said. 'I don't know what I feel but I'm just very flattered and complimented that I am included. I guess now there is more attention and they notice me that's why.' But, despite her humility, one thing was evident during a visit to the Bangkok set: Yeoh was obviously quite a star already. The Hong Kong actress has apparently charmed both cast and crew, and everyone - from the crew to producer Michael G Wilson - describes her with a unanimous 'wonderful'. 'She's a wonderful person to work with; she's always so cheerful and even-tempered. She's just great. You know as well as I do that stars can sometimes be very . . . difficult,' said the film's director Roger Spottiswoode. Wilson, a self-confessed fan of Hong Kong films, agreed readily: 'She's very intelligent and charming, and she truly is a wonderful person to work with.' With such praise forthcoming, it is not surprising that Yeoh is happy these days. Talk of the 'Bond girl curse' or the 'short career span of beauty queens' fails to deter her. 'It's the 20th century; we don't believe in such things these days!' she exclaimed. She likes being called the new 'Bond girl' anyway. 'The Bond image is this gorgeous, beautiful woman who has a great figure. Why should I complain? I'm just not blonde,' she laughed. Besides, Yeoh intends to take her Bond girl into the 21st century as well. 'In the old days, the Bond girl was the blonde girl in the swimming pool. We're going into the 21st century and women are not just gorgeous to look at but smart. They're intelligent and just as smart as Bond,' she said. In the film, Yeoh will play Wai Lin (originally called Lin Pao), an agent of the People's External Security Force in Beijing. She strikes up an unlikely partnership with 007 when the latter's search for a shadowy news mogul, Elliot Carver (Jonathan Pryce), leads him to troubled Chinese waters. And if there's only one reason for the kung fu star to be frustrated these days, it would only be that she is being shackled and handcuffed - figuratively and literally - on the set most of the time. She isn't really complaining about being handcuffed to 'gorgeous' Brosnan for a lot of the scenes. Yeoh has a bigger problem dealing with watching her stunt double Wendy Leech doing the hair-raising stunts that she is itching to try herself. 'It's so limiting,' she said of being sidelined. 'I keep going [to Roger]: 'Come on, I can do it, let me do it . . .' and he'll say: 'The producers will kill me if I let you do it.' So we try and work around it. To me, it's very restricting.' Yeoh recalled a scene where she had to climb over Brosnan and sit on the front seat of a 364-kilogram BMW motorcycle but Spottiswoode foiled her by shouting 'Cut!'. 'In Hong Kong we would do that scene in one shot; it can be done. But the producers go: 'What if she slips and she falls or something happens?' 'So on these things they are very careful. In case of accidents, it can be disastrous,' added the Malaysian, who recently appeared in her first non-action leading role in The Soong Sisters. 'But because I have done a lot of sequences before and I'm very confident, there are certain things I know I can do and certain things I can't. I was going to try and do it but Roger was very smart. Just as I was going to do it, he shouted 'cut!'.' Spottiswoode explained that insurance would not allow the stars to take such risks. After all, we are talking about a scene where Yeoh and Brosnan leap across two buildings on the heavy machine with handcuffs on. 'She argues [about doing her own stunts],' the director of Turner And Hooch and Air America conceded with a faintly indulgent smile. The does worry bother the film's star Brosnan, although he is not about to allow himself to be swept away by her enthusiasm. 'Well, obviously there is a lot more at stake with a movie like this with the big budget. 'An accident can hold things up a lot, but it doesn't bother me if Michelle wants to do her own stunts,' Brosnan said smoothly. Yeoh's double, Leech, who has worked on other Bond movies as well as the Indiana Jones trilogy, admits laughingly that she has more cause to worry. 'If she carries on this way, I will be out of a job,' said Leech. 'I keep telling [stunt co-ordinator] Jean Pierre Goy that he is very bad. He keeps allowing Michelle up on the bike. Maybe I shall have to handcuff her to something else instead of to Pierce.' Leech's husband, Vic Armstrong, is the film's second unit director who will be filming most of the stunt sequences. 'You have to stop her from doing the stunts because of the insurance. She's a little like Harrison Ford. He also likes to try everything out himself,' said Armstrong, who also worked on the Indiana Jones movies. Yeoh is learning to grin and enjoy the safety of being in her chair. 'It's going to be quite difficult, I think,' she said wistfully. 'The stunts are going to be handled very, very carefully, so OK I'm just going to calm down.' But she quickly perked up at the mention of her [stunt] 'boys' in Hong Kong, who will be joining her in London later when she will finally be able to get her hands dirty with some arm-to-arm combat scenes. 'We will have six of them and a stunt co-ordinator from Hong Kong. 'There's a style of fighting that we're used to and it's a lot easier when you work with people you're used to . . . the rhythm and the timing and when you're dodging and kicking,' she said eagerly. 'So it's very good that MGM and Eon [Productions] have realised this and Vic Armstrong has agreed that I work with people I've worked with before.' But Yeoh might have to learn to ease up on the action anyway, even though she swears she will 'never give up the action genre'. Already her managers in the United States are looking at plenty of non-action scripts for her. 'Some are very dramatic roles, there are some comedies and, of course, action films. It's something very diversifying for me,' she said. For the moment, however, Yeoh will concentrate on making Wai Lin the best 20th-century heroine she can because she knows Tomorrow Never Dies will have the power of carving a solid impression of her in the minds of people around the world. 'With Supercop, Asia knows about it and in America, some people know of it. With Bond movies, a lot more people are going to know who I am. Hopefully from here, it gets bigger and better.' And Yeoh is confident that it will too.