When 11 Oscar nominations came in for Everything Everywhere All at Once on Tuesday morning, putting it at the head of the pack, the film’s lead, Michelle Yeoh, was on a Zoom watching together with directors The Daniels and her co-star Ke Huy Quan.
In that moment, Yeoh made history as the first self-identifying Asian lead actress nominee in Academy history (Merle Oberon was nominated in 1939 but her heritage was concealed).
Speaking with Deadline following the news, Yeoh said, “I think what I, “What it means to me, is all those Asians out there go, ‘You see, it’s possible. If she can do it, I can freaking well do it as well.’ That is the most important thing. I’m very ordinary. I just work very hard. There are so many brilliant actresses, actors out there who know that they have a seat at the table. All they have to do is find an opportunity and get there.”
Yeoh was grateful to be on that Zoom call for support, she said, feeling all the significance of the moment. “I was so terrified, sitting here thinking, what if I don’t get nominated? What about all those people who have such hopes and they’ve pinned their hopes and aspirations on you to tell us that we should be there?… Sometimes you don’t do things for yourself. You tell stories because it’s important for that story to be told. And you need need it to be out there. And I understand the need for our Asians to turn around and say, ‘We need this,’ because it just validates that we deserve to have a seat at the table, and we deserve to be part of all this.”
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Meanwhile Yeoh’s co-star Stephanie Hsu was coming into land on a plane from Sydney, where she is shooting The Fall Guy with Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling. At 5.25am Pacific time, just as the nominations were being announced, the plane’s wi-fi connection dropped out. Feeling awkward, Hsu asked the stewardess to re-set the plane’s system.
“She probably thought I was a tech-obsessed millennial who couldn’t not be with her phone,” Hsu laughed.
Reflecting on the news, Hsu focused on Yeoh’s history-making nomination, “Every card that’s ever been stacked against me has been stacked against her tenfold. And to be able to get to experience this together feels like some cycles are breaking, you know? Some patterns are breaking, and I feel really honored to be alongside her and alongside so all the principal cast in our movie and with so much of our crew. There should be different ways in which we measure success and art, but for people who’ve been unseen, it’s major that in 95 years, Michelle’s the first. That’s a big deal.”
During the pandemic, in the space between shooting the film and waiting for it to come out, Ke Huy Quan lost his health insurance because he could not get a job. “I was out auditioning left and right and I could not get one single job,” he said. “I was just so worried that [getting hired for Everything Everywhere]was a one-time thing and that’s it. Nobody wants to hire me again. Then the movie came out and it changed my life. Everything that has happened since has been unbelievable.”
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When he was making the movie an Oscar nomination was not even a distant dream in his mind. “I remember thinking we would just be lucky if we made our budget back. We didn’t even have the award season on our minds. It’s like, we’re getting nominated. Is that even possible? It’s just this little movie that could. I’m so thrilled.”