David Thewlis, like many of us, was only minimally familiar with the story of Aung San Suu Kyi when he was first presented with the script for director Luc Besson’s “The Lady.” The actor (who plays Suu Kyi’s husband Michael in the film) was aware of her as a Nobel laureate and political prisoner in Burma (known officially as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar), but did not know the story of her marriage, or that she had left her husband and two children behind in her fight. “I knew that there was a woman campaigning for democracy under a military regime,” he says.
I, too, possessed little more than iconic snapshot images of Suu Kyi and her work when I sat down to watch the film. I knew she was a leader of immeasurable courage. I knew of her now legendary walk past the raised guns of the Burmese military, a military that was prepared to kill without hesitation on behalf of an entrenched government that has ruled violently via repressive military dictatorship for decades. And yet they did not kill her. In my imagination, it was as though she was some unearthly figure, something so graceful that they could not bear to cut her down.