About an hour after Ke Huy Quan heard that his name was being read as an Academy Award nominee for his performance in “Everything at Once.” “Still processing” would be an understatement. “Still jumping for joy” would be more accurate.
“This is one of the funnest mornings I’ve ever had! Quan complained.
Few Oscar nominees this year have had a more circuitous route to the Academy Award than 51-year-old Quan. After playing as a child in two of the most beloved films of the 1980s – such as Short Round in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and Data in ” The Goonies” – Quan struggled to find work in an industry where opportunities for Asian-American actors were few and far between. After that he went to film school, started working beyond the camera and more and more gave up his hope of acting again.
Now, thanks to Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s existential romp — “Everything everywhere everywhere at once” led all the films on Tuesday 11 nominations including the best actress and best actress for Michelle Yeoh – Quan is living the dream left. Speaking by phone from Los Angeles, Quan – who is believed to be the first to win best actor at the March 12 Oscars – reflects on his Oscar moment that was a mystery.
AP: How are you feeling?
Quan: It feels surreal. I can’t believe this is happening. When I heard the nomination, I jumped and screamed loudly. I felt the same feeling when my agent called me to tell me I got the part of Waymond. This is what I’ve been dreaming of for over 30 years. I watched the Oscars every year, religiously. I always see myself on the red carpet, sitting in that room, being selected and waiting for them to read – all of that. It just seemed impossible. Especially when I had to stop acting for years, the dream seemed dead. I didn’t even dare to think about it because I wasn’t an actor anymore. My whole story is that I just want a job. I just wanted to have a steady job where I could start over. So getting an Oscar nomination is beyond my imagination. I can’t believe I’m talking to you.
AP: How was your morning?
Quan: I set the alarm clock. I woke up very early and I got on Zoom with my “EEAAO” family, with Michelle, with Mr. Daniels, and our producer Jonathan (Wang). We were chatting and watching the nominations come in. We were all in awe. We can’t believe we are leading by 11 teams. I am very grateful to the academy. They have fulfilled many dreams today.
AP: You’ve been celebrating a lot this awards season. Have you heard people encouraging you and encouraging you with your twist?
Quan: When I decided to start acting again, I was very scared. The last time you saw me on screen, I was a child. Now, I am a middle-aged father. Ever since our film came out, they have shown me nothing but love and kindness, and I appreciate them. I have cried many times. I have been very touched because I have met many of them in person and they all said they are happy to see me back on screen. It has been a wild and incredible journey. I didn’t expect any of this. I hope my story will inspire them not to give up on their dreams.
AP: What are you going to do to celebrate today?
Quan: I want to call my family. I want to hug my wife. They have supported me all these years without limit. He saw me when I was struggling. They were happy that I started making those films. And when I was upset, they were worried about me. They always ask me if there is anything they can do for me, even telling me to go to Houston – where most of my family lives – to see if I want to do something else. So he understands my problems better than anyone. Ever since our film, especially during the awards, they have been so, so happy for me. Seeing their smile, their happiness, that’s what makes me happy. That’s what I’m grateful for. Especially my wife who I have been married to for 22 years now. Every month, every year, they say: “Well, one day it will happen.” He did not waver in his belief in me. (Quan’s voice trembles) When I didn’t believe in myself, he believed in me.
AP: Michelle Yeoh described her Oscar nomination as a confirmation. Especially considering you went through a long period of self-doubt, is it the same for you?
Quan: He’s right. That’s a great confirmation. When I got in front of the camera, I didn’t know if I could do it, and I didn’t know if the audience wanted to see me do it again. All I knew was that I enjoyed being in front of the camera. I felt so good, like it was where I lived. So this appointment means that I made the right decision. For a very long time, when I was very young, I was so lost because I couldn’t see my way. But now I see it. I guess that means I have to do this for as long as I like. And honestly, to be able to do what you love, it’s really hard. That’s what this election is about. That means the world to me.
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