“It’s destiny.” After 40 years, Ke Huy Quan is a star again

New York (AP) — Ke Huy Quan is trying very hard not to cry.

He’s been crying a lot lately. Quan tends to get emotional any time he thinks of his sudden fate reversal. Since then “everything is everywhere at once” Opening in theaters earlier this year, the 51-year-old Kwan — who has since been the iconic child star in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” such as Short Round, and Data in “Goonies” — says, “She gets overwhelmed with feelings every single day.”

“I never thought this day would come. It’s been a day I’ve wanted for so long, for decades. It’s finally here,” Quan says. “When you have a dream and you’re burying it because you think it’s not going to come true, seeing it finally come true is just incredible.”

“I cry a lot,” he says.

Quan was once one of the most indelible faces and voices of the ’80s. He was 12 years old when he was cast as Harrison Ford’s Yankee cap-wearing sidekick in “Temple of Doom.” His younger brother, David, auditioned, but Ke caught Spielberg’s eye. Quan starred in Goonies in 1985 as well, but he didn’t find a few roles after that. By the time Quan was in his twenties, he had disappeared from the screen. Struggling to find a foothold at a time when roles were scarce for Asian-American actors, Vietnamese-born Quan moved to Where Are They Now? province.

Quan gave up acting. He went back to school to study film at USC and transitioned into working behind the camera. Twenty years passed before he acted again. But when Quan was 49 years old, he decided to give it one last go. Two weeks later, he landed his role in “Everything Everywhere at Once.”

Now, Quan isn’t just a working actor again, with a string of roles to come, being celebrated for one of the best performances of the year. He plays Waymond, a meek husband who in the film’s spiraling multiverse transforms into a sack-throwing hero and “In the Mood for Love”-esque bachelor. Decades may have passed, but Quan’s honest, sweet screen presence still shines through.

The 51-year-old actor has already bagged awards from the Gotham AwardsNew York Film Critics Circle It was nominated for a Spirit Award. Having spent much of his life as an actor looking for a second chance, Quan may be the favorite to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

“For a long time, all I wanted was just a job,” Kwan says. “Just a chance to act, to show people what I can do. This movie, ‘everything everywhere at once’, has given me so much more than anything I could have asked for.”

While speaking by Zoom during his day off filming Anthony and Joe Russo’s “Electric State” in Atlanta, Quan’s wife was close to the camera urging him: “Don’t cry!” Don’t cry!” Quan tried. But when he reflected on his whole journey, he often found it difficult.

“There are a lot of people who doubt themselves, who have dreams that they gave up on or didn’t think would ever come true,” Chuan said in a crackling voice. “For these people, I hope my story will inspire them.”

Notes have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.


AP: Since the release of Everything Everywhere at Once, how has this year been for you?

Kwan: ​​I’m not a cloud nine but 18. Before it came out, I was really nervous. When I got back into acting, I didn’t tell my family. I kept it a secret from everyone. I didn’t know if anyone wanted me. I didn’t even know if I could get a job. And even after we finished the movie, I didn’t know if I was any good. That’s why I kept him away from my family because I’m thinking, “If I got fired during production, they wouldn’t know about it.” Or, “If a movie is bad or bad, they won’t know about it.” I told them right before our trailer came out. The day before, I called my family and said, “I have a little surprise for you.” I said, “I’m an actor again.” When the movie came out, they saw it and called me. They didn’t have any information about my role. They said, “Ke, you’re in this movie a lot!”

AP: Given your personal history, do you particularly relate to the film’s exploration of alternate realities and lives not lived?

Chuan: For the longest time, the characters I go to didn’t have a character’s name, they only lasted a page or two. I thought this role was written for me. I remember reading it until five in the morning, sitting on the couch, imagining all the things I wanted to put into this character and the three versions of this character. I was looking out the window and saw the sunrise. I felt I had enough life experience now to be able to do this. Right before I fell asleep, reality set in. Fantasy done. I’m thinking: “It’s impossible for me to get this role, especially since I haven’t acted in over 20 years.” It’s impossible! How can anyone think that your first movie is coming back, and that I’m going to make this movie my comeback movie? At the time, I think winning the lottery would have been much easier.

When I got that wonderful phone call and heard the three words every actor longs to hear, which are, “We want you,” I was so happy that I can’t even describe my feelings at the time. Honestly, I don’t think I could have played this character had I been offered it 10 years ago. Everything had to happen the way it did. It’s fate.

AP: You were amazing as a child actor. Did you ever feel it was unfair that you weren’t given more opportunities then?

Kwan: ​​In my late teens and early twenties, when it was very difficult for me to get a job, I never blamed anyone. I thought I wasn’t good enough. I thought I wasn’t tall enough. I thought I wasn’t good looking enough. I thought maybe my acting wasn’t good enough, and that’s why I didn’t take those roles. And I was really young. I blame myself. For the longest time, I wished I was better. Hollywood writers weren’t writing roles for Asian actors. I didn’t think like that. I always fantasized: “How would I be in this role?” But of course, that never happened. Hollywood didn’t write roles like this for Asian actors. I didn’t know that then, so I only blamed myself.

AP: When you left acting, did you make your peace with it? Or do you hold out some hope of returning one day?

Kwan: ​​I’ve been struggling with this decision for at least two years. You know, the last audition I did was for a role with no name, two lines. I walked into the room and there were 30 other Asian actors fighting for these little breadcrumbs. When I didn’t understand that, I no longer saw a future for myself as an actor. I felt like time was slipping away. I spent a lot of time waiting for the phone, hoping it would ring, hoping my agent would call me, hoping one day I’d get another role like Data or Short Round.

That was when I decided to enroll in USC Film School. When I moved away, I thought I moved away for good. For a long time, I thought I didn’t like acting anymore, until I started seeing fellow Asian actors succeed. I say, “Wow, times have changed. We’re not only getting very stereotypical roles but we’re getting meaningful roles and meaty roles.” It was not until then that that insect, which I had buried very, very deeply, began to crawl to the surface, that I could not deny this impulse to return any longer. You understand, I’m not in my twenties. I’m not in my 30s anymore. I was 49 years old when I made this decision. She scared me. But the thought of regretting not giving voice to this dream frightened me even more.

AP: All those years ago, you said Spielberg sent you an annual holiday gift. What does he send you?

Chuan: It’s always a great gift with a card. every year for the past 38 years. Every year it will be different. I always look forward to that special gift I get from Stephen. It always gladdens my heart that he still remembers me, that he still thinks of me when the holiday comes around. I am always grateful to this man. Not only has he taught me a lot, but he has changed my life in the most amazing way. I think the reason I love acting so much has a lot to do with it. My first experience as an actor was on his set. I have fond memories of that experience. This is why I fell in love with acting.

AP: Have you seen it since “everything is everywhere at once” came out?

Kwan: ​​I saw Stephen on Zoom during the pandemic. We’ve had several “Goonies” reunions, so that was really cool. But since our movie came out, I haven’t seen or spoken to him. So I want to see him in person and ask him what he thinks about our movie and my performance. I hope to make him proud.

Associated Press: I met with Harrison Ford. The photo was taken at the D23 event Perhaps I have warmed the hearts of millions.

Cowan: I also got together with Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy at the same event where I saw Harrison. We kind of had a little reunion. I even joked with Kathy and Frank, knowing I’m not in the “Indy 5″—they actually did—I said, “Oh my God, it would have been better if Short Round had been in it.” Kathy said, “Ki, this is much better. What you have now is much better.”

AP: How did you experience photo responsiveness with Ford?

Kwan: ​​I remember that day very well. 38 years have passed. After I went outside and we talked for a bit, we took three pictures. One, I just put my arms around him and he puts his arm on my shoulder. At that moment, I felt very comfortable. I couldn’t help but wrap my arms around him – this guy I love so much. Since it came out, the response has been to fans from all over the world, how they see that picture and cause tears in their eyes – it brought tears to my eyes. I was emotional when I hugged him. And to see him smile the way he did! It was just one of those very special moments in life that you don’t get too often. I will remember her as long as I live.

AP: What does an Oscar nomination mean to you?

Kwan: ​​When I was auditioning for this movie, I prayed to get the role. I made a wish and it came true. My birthday was in August and every year for the longest time, in my entire life, every year I make a wish. This year I didn’t. I didn’t want to be greedy. I really got everything I wanted as an actor in this amazing movie. Whatever happens, my dream has already come true. God, Buddha has already answered my prayer. Everything else is icing on the cake.

AP: Are you still very much known on the street? Did this movie change the way people treat you?

Kwan: ​​Over the years, it was once in a while. People know me, especially my voice. The question I always get asked is, “Are you an Indiana Jones kid?” or “Are you a kid from the Goonies?” “I’m so lucky to be a part of those two amazing movies. But for the longest time, I’ve always hoped to do something as an adult that people would recognize for me. I did Comic-Cons where I signed autographs and pictures, but I was just a kid. Now I have that. When Come out, people say, “Wow, you and Waymond from ‘everything everywhere at once.'”


Follow AP Film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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