Perhaps the highest profile comeback of the 2022 award season has been Brendan Fraser. Brendan will very likely be nominated for an Oscar for his performance in The Whale and he’s been warmly embraced by the industry. There is another comeback, though, on the award circuit, and he too seems pretty popular: Ke Huy Quan, aka Short Round, from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Or perhaps you know him as Data, from The Goonies.
Ke Huy Quan was just nominated for an Independent Spirit Award this week for his work in Everything Everywhere All At Once, one of the most acclaimed films of the year, and also a commercially successful one as it’s now A24’s biggest box office hit, grossing over $100 million worldwide. If you weren’t aware, A24 is maybe the only production company with its own cult following. I’m telling you this because that will matter during the Oscar race. Fans of A24 films GET BEHIIND their movies, creating buzz and generating momentum online – both The Whale and Everything Everywhere All At Once are A24 features – and in particular, the A24 community LOVES EEAAO.
So Ke Huy Quan has a very, very, very good shot at a nomination for Best Supporting Actor. If that happens, we’ll never ever really know what that moment will mean to him. Because Ke Huy has been through it. He quit acting when he realised there were virtually no opportunities for an Asian actor in front of the camera, telling The Guardian this week that, “I remember not having one single audition for an entire year”. To go from having key roles in Indiana Jones and The Goonies to not even being able to get an audition? Soul-crushing is an understatement.
He decided to go to film school and ended up working behind the scenes as an assistant director and stunt coordinator. Then he saw Crazy Rich Asians and was like…wait, maybe it’s finally time, maybe it’s finally changing. Shortly after that, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert aka The Daniels couldn’t find the right person to cast in Everything Everywhere and stumbled upon Ke Huy Quan on Twitter. That’s the former actor they were waiting for. And now the movie is a major hit and an Oscar contender.
Is this a feelgood story? Ke Huy has a feelgood attitude about it, no doubt. And he’s definitely enjoying every second of this ride. So I’ll be the one over here feeling the bitterness…because he is so f-cking amazing in Everything Everywhere, it’s a shame that the culture has been deprived of his talent for 30 years. Of course we should celebrate his return. We should also, however, remember that he had to return from something, something painful.
Jordan Peele knows it. Steven Yeun’s character in Nope – a former child star whose trauma in the industry informs his decisions as an adult – is widely believed to be based on Ke Huy Quan. Steven’s character, Jupe, in that film is traumatised by his experience growing up in Hollywood. Hollywood has certainly left its scars on Ke Huy.
At the Governors Awards last weekend, Jordan Peele and Ke Huy Quan having a “long, warm chat”. And I wonder if in seeing Nope, Ke Huy felt seen himself.
There are certainly a lot of people who see him now. He was apparently one of the most popular attendees at the Governors Awards, with many other actors in attendance speaking excitedly about being able to meet him, including Colin Farrell. Steven Spielberg was not at the Governors Awards though so we did not get an update on this photo from 1985…
…but Ke Huy told The Guardian that Spielberg still sends him Christmas gifts every year. “He gave me my first job and, so many years later, he has not forgotten me.” It was Steven who cast Ke Huy as “Short Round” in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And, well, speaking of reunions and Short Round and Indy…
Look at this side by side:
Ke Huy Quan on reuniting with Harrison Ford— ScreenTime (@screentime) October 19, 2022
â€œI'm thinking 'is he going to recognize me?' He turns and points at me and says â€˜Are you Short Round?â€™ Immediately, I was transported back [to] when I was a little kid and said â€˜Yes Indy.â€™ And he said â€˜Come hereâ€™ and gave me a big hug" pic.twitter.com/VsQFUglElR
I cried when I heard about their reunion at D23 a couple of months ago. Did you hear about this? If not, prepare to WEEP:
Ke Huy Quan told me the wonderful story behind that TEMPLE OF DOOM reunion with Harrison Ford. (This is from an article Iâ€™ve got coming later this week but I just couldnâ€™t wait to share.) pic.twitter.com/WDG0ayf3yg— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) October 19, 2022
They called each other “Indy” and “Short Round”!
It’s thrilling to see that there’s so much love for Ke Huy Quan among his peers. It’ll continue to be thrilling to see it throughout award season. I have goosebumps just thinking about what it might feel like at the Dolby Theatre on Oscar night if Ke Huy gets up on stage at one point – either to present or accept.
And the good news is, this does not just seem to be a moment. Because Ke Huy is working, he’s working a lot. He spent the summer in London working on season two of Loki and also stars in the upcoming series American Born Chinese. Welcome back Ke Huy Quan!