Ke Huy Quan on the Oscar “Everything Everywhere”, Harrison Ford Reunion – Variety

Ke Huy Quan was on a mission. He had just been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Waymond Wang, the clumsy husband of a laundromat owner in “Everything, Everywhere, Suddenly,” and he wanted to live that moment with Steven Spielberg. Spielberg, you see, was the filmmaker who cast him for his breakout role in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” in 1984 when Quan was 12.

So, during a commercial break on the Oscars telecast, Quan, 51, walked over to where Spielberg was sitting with his wife, actress Kate Capshaw, whom Quan hadn’t seen since they had starred in “Temple of Doom” four decades earlier. . After hugs all around, Spielberg put his hands on Quan’s shoulders and said, “You’re an Oscar-winning actor now.”

The depth of this statement was not lost on any of them, as Quan’s Oscar win capped one of the most unlikely comeback stories in Hollywood history. For decades, he had been relegated to the margins of cinema, without a career – or health insurance.

But we are getting ahead.

It’s been less than 24 hours since Quan climbed the stairs to the Dolby Theater stage and told the story of an immigrant from Vietnam – the seventh of nine children – who had, after much hard work, achieved the “dream American”. And this morning, despite a marathon night of celebrations, her joyful energy is contagious.

Still, there is an underlying hesitation in Quan’s voice. He fears waking up from this dream to find that his resurrection has vaporized. “I had a conversation with my agent,” he says. “I’m so worried it’s just a one-time thing.”

Andrew Eccles for variety

Like many immigrants, Quan’s parents wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer – anything that would provide economic stability. Instead, fate intervened when her younger brother attended an open casting call to play Indiana Jones’ sidekick Short Round. But there was something about 12-year-old Quan that made the cast think they’d found the perfect movie for cinema’s most famous archaeologist, and Quan, not his brother, landed the role. The following summer, he went on to play Data, one of the treasure-hunting misfits in Richard Donner’s “The Goonies.”

Then it was over. For 30 years, Quan endured countless failed auditions. He then attended USC film school and worked odd jobs as a fight choreographer on “X-Men” and developing projects for director Wong Kar Wai at his production company, Jet Tone. Movies. It is there that he meets his wife, Echo, whom he considers the unsung hero of his recent success. Every month for 20 years, Echo has told her husband, “Trust me, your time will come.

“Sometimes I was frustrated with her,” Quan said, tearfully recalling their conversations. “I said to him, ‘You keep saying that, and that’s never going to happen.’ I couldn’t believe it. Twenty years is not short.”

There are never guarantees in Hollywood. But Quan is making the most of his turn as the darling of the awards season. Three completed projects are on the way: two television series, “American Born Chinese” and the second season of the MCU’s “Loki” for Disney+, as well as the upcoming sci-fi film “The Electric State”, starring Millie Bobby Brown and Chris Pratt. As of today, there are no other offers on the table.

But this morning is meant for the party. Quan plans to visit his mother in Los Angeles to show her his statuette. Before doing so, he sits down to discuss the journey that brought him to the Oscars.

Ho are you doing?

I am still processing it. I didn’t get much sleep last night—I think it was only an hour. When I woke up, I took a minute or two wondering if it was a dream. But I’ve been doing that a lot lately, because so much has happened in the last year and it’s surreal.

When you accepted your Oscar, you talked about being a refugee and living in a camp. How did you end up in America?

I was just a normal kid in Vietnam in 1978, and all of a sudden my parents decided to flee the country. I didn’t understand what was happening. All I knew was that I was separated from my mother, my little brother and a few of my sisters. It was in the middle of the night when my father, five of my siblings and I escaped by boat. We arrived in Hong Kong and I was in a refugee camp surrounded by guards and police for a whole year until we were granted political asylum. Then I got on a plane and landed in Los Angeles for the first time. It was in 1979.

I didn’t have the maturity to accept the sacrifices my parents made so that we could have a better future. And as fate would have it, four years later I landed a job on “Indiana Jones,” which changed my life. I always wanted to thank my parents for what they did, but I grew up in a family where we just don’t share that kind of emotion with each other. And then last night, I did it publicly. I wanted the world to know how much my parents meant to me. Also, our film, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, is about this immigrant family. That’s why the story stuck with me so much.

Andrew Eccles for variety

Not only did you win, but Jamie Lee Curtis won Best Supporting Actress, and Michelle Yeoh made history as the first Asian actress to win a Leading Actress Oscar.

Right before it happened, I looked at Michelle, and I knew she was very nervous. And we held hands: Jamie was closer to her, so Michelle held Jamie’s hand, Jamie held my hand, and I held Stephanie Hsu’s hand. We just hoped and prayed that his name would be called. And then the story was made.

Does this give you hope for the future in terms of Asian representation?

Forget 30, 40, even 10 years ago. Look where we are now: the landscape looks so different. We have a place at the table. Our voices are heard. Our faces are seen, and it’s amazing.

There was a mini “Indiana Jones” reunion on stage last night. Harrison Ford is the person who opened the envelope and announced that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won Best Picture. How was it?

When he opened that envelope and read the headline, it made our Best Picture win even more special. And when I ran up on stage, I pointed at him and he pointed at me and I hugged him. I just couldn’t help it. I just want to shower this man with all my love. I gave Harrison Ford a big kiss on the cheek.

How was your first day on a movie set?

I could hear Steven giving me directions, and every time I did something he liked, he would clap my hand.

Do you remember watching “Temple of Doom” for the first time?

We saw it at Mann’s Chinese Theatre. It was the first time I saw myself on the big screen. Watching the movie with the audience and hearing them laughing and clapping was such a great feeling. I wanted to repeat it over and over and over again.

You did two films with Steven Spielberg back to back – ‘Temple of Doom’ and ‘The Goonies’. Did you think you were going to reprise your role in “The Last Crusade”?

I was secretly hoping. But honestly, Steven gave me so much – not one movie, but two movies. And they were the first to put an Asian face in a major Hollywood movie.

Andrew Eccles for variety

After those films, you struggled to find roles. What happened?

I was taught never to blame anyone. If something doesn’t go your way, it’s either because you didn’t work hard enough, you weren’t good enough, or you didn’t try hard enough. So when I couldn’t find a job, I blamed myself: I thought I wasn’t tall enough, or handsome enough, or not good enough as an actor because I wasn’t didn’t have a classical education. I never blamed anyone – even to this day.

We talk about Asian representation, but I don’t like to look back and say, “Oh, my God, how bad! I prefer to focus on the present and move forward. Many things have changed.

What is your relationship with your parents?

My father passed away in 2001, but I had a great relationship with both of my parents. I was a little kid and I had all these amazing opportunities with ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Goonies’; I could see the joy and pride felt by my parents. And then, as those opportunities dried up, I could see them wanting something different for me, because they could sense that I wasn’t happy. My mother is a very superstitious person, so she used to tell me to go see fortune tellers. They were Buddhists, so I saw my mother praying to Buddha to give me a career. That’s why it was so painful for me – because there was nothing I could do to get someone to put me in a movie or create a big role for me. And that’s one of the things I hated about our business.

This marks a big comeback for you, but you have no plans in sight. Are you worried that, despite the success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once”, you can no longer be cast?

I attended an event recently and sat next to Cate Blanchett. I told him that I don’t know what I’m going to do next, but I feel that I have a responsibility to do something good and I don’t want to disappoint all the people who have supported me. And she said, “Just go with your heart and be irresponsible: don’t worry about what other people think. Pick something you believe in, pick something you like, and you’ll be fine. »

Location: Mandarin Oriental Residences, Beverly Hills; Grooming: Anissa Salazar; Chloé Takayanagi/The Wall Group; Made to measure Giorgio Armani; Brooch: Fred Leighton; Cufflinks: David Yurman; Watch: Omega; Glasses: Oliver Peoples

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