Ke Huy Quan’s triumphant return to the world of mainstream acting

Ke Huy Quan reflected on his immigrant past when accepting the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in All at Once.

On stage at the 95th Academy Awards in Los Angeles, he said, “My journey began on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage.”

The Vietnamese-American actor made his debut in the blockbuster Indiana Jones as a child and later starred in the 1985 cult classic The Goonies.

Despite the success of those films, he was overlooked on big screen projects and has only appeared in a handful of titles since.

However, Quan has taken the 2023 awards season by storm, earning numerous accolades and making history in the process.

He won several major awards for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the sci-fi epic Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Ke Huy Quan, left, and Michelle Yeoh are seen in the audience as he accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Everything Everywhere All at Once (Chris Pizzello/AP).

On Sunday, Quan capped his successful run by adding an Oscar to his collection and becoming the first person of Asian origin to win the category.

Born in 1971 in Saigon, South Vietnam, Quan is one of nine siblings.

In 1978 his family fled Vietnam, with Quan, his father and five siblings spending time in a Hong Kong refugee camp while his mother and three other siblings fled to Malaysia.

His entire family later immigrated to the United States in 1979.

After a school audition at age 12, he appeared in Steven Spielberg’s 1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as Harrison Ford’s jaunty sidekick, Short Round.

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Harrison Ford, left, and Ke Huy Quan react on stage (Chris Pizzello/AP)

Quan and Spielberg have reunited several times in recent months, with the actor singled out the veteran director in his Golden Globes acceptance speech.

“I was raised never to forget where I came from and to always remember who gave me my first chance. I’m really excited to see Steven Spielberg here tonight,” he said.

In The Goonies he played the quirky computer genius Data who, along with his gang of young friends, sets out in search of long-lost treasure.

After roles in the US sitcom Head of the Class in 1991 and the film Encino Man in 1992, Quan left acting and earned a film degree from the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

“As I got older, I began to wonder if that was it. If it was just luck for so many years, I was afraid I had nothing left to offer,” he said at the Golden Globes.

“That no matter what I did, I would never surpass what I achieved as a child.

“Luckily, more than 30 years later, two guys remembered that kid and they gave me a chance.”

In Everything Everywhere…, Quan plays the role of loving husband Waymond Wang, who is preoccupied with navigating the multiverse, which has forced him to appear in three different incarnations.

Days after his Golden Globes win, Quan also took home the appropriate Critics Choice award for Supporting Actor, thanking critics and journalists for reminding audiences “who I am.”

“I had prepared myself for a completely different reaction. But because of your generosity, I was taken back with so much positivity,” he said.

“Not only have you helped audiences find our little film, but you’ve helped audiences remember who I am. And I am so, so grateful to you for that.”

Along with Everything Everywhere co-star Michelle Yeoh, Quan made history at the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, where the couple became the first Asian actors to win top film awards.

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Both Quan and Michelle Yeoh made history at the recent SAG Awards (Ian West/PA)

Quan won the Best Supporting Actor award, also becoming the second Asian male actor to win a single SAG award in film or television, a year after Squid Game’s Lee Jung-Jae won the award for a Male Actor in a Drama Series had.

At the SAG Awards, he recognized his achievement and welcomed the increasing diversity in the entertainment industry.

“I quickly realized that this moment no longer belongs to me,” he said.

“It also belongs to everyone who asked for change.

“The landscape looked so different now than before.

“So thank you to all of you in this room and to everyone who has contributed to these changes.”

Concluding his remarks, he added: “To everyone at home watching and fighting and waiting to be seen. Please keep going because the spotlight will find you one day.

“Thank you to everyone who rooted for me. I’ll cheer you on.”

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