40 years after “Indiana Jones”, the moving and spectacular return of Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan

40 years after «Indiana Jones”, the moving and spectacular comeback by Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan

MISE À DAY

His story is worthy of a Hollywood script: revealed almost 40 years ago by Steven Spielberg and Indiana Jones, actor Ke Huy Quan then suffered an interminable journey through the desert, before winning an Oscar on Sunday for his big return to the screen. 

The Vietnamese-born actor won the Best Supporting Actor statuette, thanks to his character as a multi-faceted husband in the crazy comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Already rewarded for this performance by numerous awards, including a Golden Globe, the 51-year-old actor takes a dazzling revenge on an industry that had completely forgotten him. Incidentally, it also stands out as a symbol of Hollywood's progress in terms of diversity.

“Mom, I just won an Oscar!” he said in tears on stage Sunday after receiving his Oscar.

Before Everything Everywhere All At Once, Ke Huy Quan had not auditioned for more than twenty years. But for this film with a predominantly Asian distribution, directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan believed in him.

In this completely crazy comedy, he plays Waymond, the husband of Evelyn, a Chinese immigrant played by Michelle Yeoh.

Aborted career

Owners of a laundry, the couple is on the verge of divorce, lost between the gloom of their modest daily life and their troubles with the tax authorities. But their lives are suddenly turned upside down by the discovery of parallel universes, threatened by an evil force.

The crazy exploration of these different worlds, against a background of existential reflection, allows Ke Huy Quan to play a constantly different character: Waymond is by turns a goofy and clumsy father, an expert in martial arts, or even a tortured romantic with impeccable attire.

After years of scarcity, “I was so hungry to play a role like that,” the actor told the New York Times last year.

Disembarking in the United States with his Vietnamese parents in the late 1970s, Ke Huy Quan was only 12 when he starred with Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom by Steven Spielberg.

He plays Demi-Lune, the adventurer's little sidekick, after getting the role by accident accompanying his brother to an audition.

Propelled to the rank of child star, he embarks the following year on a treasure hunt that will mark an entire generation in The Goonies. But then his career took a turn for the worse: after a few minor television appearances, he gave up acting.

At the time, “Hollywood didn’t write roles for Asian actors,” he regretted to the New York Times.

Harrison Ford and Ke Huy Quan

Clic

After graduating from film school, he went behind the camera in Hollywood and Asia: he choreographed the fight scenes for the first film X-Men, before collaborating with Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar- Wai on 2046, the sequel to the masterful In the Mood for Love.

“I guess for a long time I lied to myself trying to convince myself that I didn't like being an actor anymore, just to make it less painful,” he told GQ magazine.

But in 2018 , something clicked when he discovered the movie Crazy Rich Asians. “I saw my Asian colleagues on screen and (…) I wanted to be in it too,” he told GQ.

Ke Huy Quan then calls an ex-comrade of the Goonies, Jeff Cohen, to ask him to be his agent. A few months later, he landed his role in Everything Everywhere All At Once.

“That phone call was one of the happiest I've ever received,” told CBS the actor, for whom the role proposals are pouring in now.

“We weren't sure what he was capable of, until we started working with him. (…) He constantly blew us away on set,” director Daniel Kwan told the New York Times.

In the film, Waymond gravely launches at his wife Evelyn: “Every rejection, every disappointment has brought you to this moment. Don't let anything distract you.” At the time of uttering this line, Ke Huy Quan probably had no idea how prescient it could turn out.