IN a tearful Oscar acceptance speech Ke Huy Quan said people think stories like his “only happen in the movies.”
And there is a good reason why the former Vietnamese refugee was so excited when he met with his old Indiana Jones co-star Harrison Ford after winning Best Supporting Actor on Sunday night.
GettyKe Huy Quan with his Oscar for Everything Everywhere All at Once[/caption]
Quan, 51, is the ultimate comeback kid.
Having been plucked from obscurity at the age of 12 by director Steven Spielberg to star in Indiana and the Temple of Doom in 1984, he became a child star.
But in his early 20s the roles dried up and Quan quit acting to go behind the camera. His hopes of ever being a star again, let alone an Oscar winner, had been extinguished.
The success of the action comedy Everything Everywhere All at Once, though, gave him that chance.
AlamyHarrison Ford with Ke Huy Quan in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom[/caption]
ReutersHarrison Ford hugs Ke Huy Quan following his Oscar win[/caption]
On collecting his golden statuette he said: “I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American dream.”
He said: “My journey started on a boat…I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow I ended up here, on Hollywood’s biggest stage.”
Quan was born in Saigon in 1971 in the midst of the Vietnam War and four years later the city fell to Communist forces.
Chaos followed and in 1978, when Quan was aged just seven, his parents decided to flee.
He ended up in a Hong Kong refugee camp with his dad, while his mum landed in Malaysia with his three siblings.
I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow I ended up here, on Hollywood’s biggest stage
Ke Huy Quan
Describing the camp he said: “It wasn’t very big. We had a chain-link fence around the building, and it was just makeshift beds right next to each other.
“There were guards to make sure we wouldn’t get out.”
Quan was reunited with his mum when the family were allowed to live in the United States as part of a resettlement program in 1979.
It was tough being an outsider in California, where he faced racism.
He said: “Nobody wanted us. They would call us ‘fresh off the boat’.
“They would make fun of us when we were in school. You can imagine what that does to the mental state of a child.”
His shot at fame came purely by chance.
Quan only tagged along to an open casting call for a character called Short Round for the Temple of Doom in support of his younger brother David.
He was asked to audition as well and impressed Spielberg.
Three weeks later the 12-year-old found himself on set with the film’s star Harrison Ford.
While making the movie Harrison realised that Quan couldn’t swim and offered to teach him.
There was always laughter and peace
Ke Huy Quan
Quan said: “That’s how we bonded. Everybody was so friendly. There was always laughter and peace.”
The next year he had a role in Spielberg’s kids film The Goonies and became a bona fide Hollywood child star.
He went on to appear in the TV sitcoms Together We Stand and Head of the Class.
But when he became an adult the roles dwindled.
Quan said: “If you were to take 100 scripts, there was a high probability that none of them would feature any meaningful Asian characters.
“A lot of the time, we were the butt of the joke.”
A lot of the time, we were the butt of the joke
Ke Huy Quan
Eventually he moved to a variety of jobs behind the camera, including assistant director and fight coordinator.
But when he saw Crazy Rich Asians in 2018, Quan realised Asian actors were being given a chance so he got himself an acting agent.
That quickly led to Everything Everywhere All At Once, which was only his second acting job in 20 years.
It was while promoting his new movie at a fan event, also attended by Harrison, that Quan was reunited with his Indiana Jones co-star.
Quan said: “I hadn’t seen him for 38 years. As I got closer, my heart started pounding because I didn’t know if he was going to recognise me.
He looked at me and said: ‘Are you Short Round?’
Ke Huy Quan
“He looked at me and said: ‘Are you Short Round?’ I was immediately transported back to when I was a little kid.
“I said: ‘Yes, Indy.’ He said: ‘Come here,’ and gave me a big hug.”
Quan earned his Oscar in Everything Everywhere All At Once because he has to play a range of characters.
He is the boring dad Waymond Wang plus multiple versions of Waymond from alternative universes, including an ass-kicking hero.
During his acceptance speech Quan paid tribute to his wife Echo and his 84-year-old mum.
Quan concluded: “Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine.
“To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
AlamyKe Huy Quan plays a hero in Everything Everywhere All at Once[/caption]
AlamyKe Huy Quan, second from right, in The Goonies[/caption]
AlamyDirector Steven Spielberg discovered Ke Huy Quan’s talents[/caption]