At 12, Ke Huy Quan had his acting debut opposite Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. A role followed this in The Goonies. During a trip to London in early February, the Oscar-nominated star of Everything Everywhere All At Once reflects, “And it was downhill from there.”
“You’d think I’d have a fantastic career after working on those two blockbuster movies. After then, there were fewer opportunities and a lengthier wait. I continued to work, but only once per year or every two years. And the roles shrunk. When I was in high school, everything was fine, but when I finished and wanted to work full-time, it was challenging.
Quan received a call from his agent in 1993, less than ten years after performing as Short Round in Temple Of Doom, even though he had been unemployed for over a year. There’s this small job, he said. There is no name for it.
You control a Viet Cong with two lines. Thirty other Asian actors were ready to read when I entered the casting director’s office. I completed my task. I returned home. I waited for a whole week.
Nothing rang on the phone. Have you heard back? I asked when I called my agency. Nah, he responded, “They’ve probably gone on.” I can still picture myself frozen on the bed’s edge. Not even this minor part could I get. The future appeared to be pretty dismal.
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Quan, born in Vietnam in 1971 to Chinese parents and spent a year with them in a camp for refugees in Hong Kong before emigrating to the US in 1979, gave it two more years. Then, at age 23, he stopped acting, attributing his failure to himself. The man claims, “I was raised in very traditional Chinese values home, never to blame anybody but yourself.”
I, therefore, believed I wasn’t tall enough, attractive enough, or a skilled enough actor. I wasn’t mature enough to believe they were not writing roles for Asian actors. I thought I would be a successful actress if I were six feet tall.
If I had had conventional training… My mind began to overflow with insecurities, and I believed I was the source of the issue. I was completely lost during that difficult time. I was disillusioned, miserable, and bewildered.
Quan attended a community college in Los Angeles before enrolling in the film program at the University of Southern California, where he eventually found his feet. The man claims that I was surrounded by others who had the same enthusiasm as myself, and we could communicate easily. My enjoyment of movies began to grow. I had hoped to keep making movies but in a new manner.
After graduating, Quan received an unexpected call from Hong Kong filmmaker and stunt coordinator Corey Yuen (The Transporter), who asked if Quan would want to join him on “a little movie in Toronto.”
Quan, who began as an assistant fight choreographer, claims, “That was X-Men.” “He took me under his wing, and we worked on several films and TV shows together. Afterward, I traveled to Hong Kong and produced a few movies for him.
Quan met his wife after that, becoming friends with Wong Kar Wai there, and they spent many years working together while traveling between the US, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.
I had several hats on. In 2046, I served as an assistant director. I was aiding him because he wanted to film an English-language movie and had a three-picture deal with an American studio.
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