'Ma, I just won an Oscar!' Ke Huy Quan's comeback from Goonie to Academy Award winner

8 months ago 4

"Hang on lady, we going for a ride!" Almost 40 years on from delivering this understatement of a line on a rope bridge in one of the most famous films of the 1980s, actor Ke Huy Quan is now on a wild ride of his own.

The 51-year-old star of Everything Everywhere All At Once is now an Oscar winner, having picked up the award for best supporting actor - but before his life-changing role in the hit multiverse film, he was best known for his work as a child star.

If you were wondering where you recognise him from, think back and you'll place him; as young sidekick Short Round alongside Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, and the gadget-loving Data - setter of booty traps and inventor of the suction-cup belt and slick shoes - in The Goonies.


Image: Quan (right) with Michelle Yeoh (centre) and Stephanie Hsu in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Pic: A24

Despite these roles in two of the most beloved films of the 1980s, Quan struggled to find further work in an industry where opportunities for Asian-American actors were scarce. Unable to find roles on screen, he eventually went to film school, began working behind the camera and more or less gave up on his hopes of acting again.

In the past 12 months, he has made not just a comeback, but an award-winning comeback, having picked up a slew of prizes - including a Golden Globe and Critics' Choice and SAG awards - for his performance as Waymond Wang alongside Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere. Now, he has added an Oscar to that list.

"My mom is 84 years old and she is at home watching," he told the Academy Awards audience as he collected his statuette. "Ma, I just won an Oscar!"

Quan was given a standing ovation as he took to the stage. "My journey started on a boat," he continued. "I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow I ended up here on Hollywood's biggest stage.

"They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe this is happening to me - this is the American dream. Thank you so much to the Academy for the honour of a lifetime."

Before the ceremony, Quan has been a favourite on the awards show trail, taking selfies with everyone from Tom Cruise to directors James Cameron and Steven Spielberg - who directed him in Indiana Jones all those years ago.

'The last time I was on screen, I was a little kid'

The Goonies, Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Ke Huy Quan, Jeff Cohen

Image: Sean Astin, Corey Feldman, Quan, and Jeff Cohen in The Goonies

"I'm so happy!" he exclaimed as he spoke to Sky News at the London Critics' Circle Awards in February, wearing his glee on his sleeve. Quan in 2023 is still boyish, his face expressive; the young star still very much there.

"It feels great," he said of his comeback. "Also surreal. In fact, when I decided to step back into acting, I was so nervous because I didn't know what the audience would think. The last [time] they saw me up on the screen I was a little kid, and now I'm a middle-aged man. So to have the response of positivity has been incredible."

In a world where A-listers are usually more reserved, it has been a joy to witness his exuberance.

'I love selfies'

 Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Image: Ke Huy Quan: Film star, award winner, and master of the finger point. Pic: Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

After the annual Oscars preview luncheon, he shared a series of photos on Instagram, nearly all featuring a grinning Quan in what has become his trademark finger point pose, alongside the likes of Cruise, Angela Bassett and Brendan Fraser.

"I was just so excited to be at the 95th Academy Luncheon today," he captioned the post. "As we were gathering for the group picture, I looked around me and got very emotional because it finally hit me that I was among this group of nominees... and you probably have caught on by now, I love selfies. Sharing some more from this afternoon."

And it is all thanks to his critically acclaimed performance in Everything Everywhere.

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"When I read the script, I knew it was special," he said. "I loved it. It was a script that I wanted to read for a long time, and we had the most fun making it. But, we didn't expect all of this. I mean, all these award nominations and the audience embracing the movie the way they did is beyond anything we ever imagined.

"I'm enjoying [awards season] very much. I'm very grateful for everything that has happened since. And yeah, it's been a wild ride."

'Knowing where I am today, I wouldn't trade it for the world'


Image: Quan with Harrison Ford and Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Pic: Moviestore/Shutterstock

At a UK Oscars preview party, a joyful Quan spoke to Sky News once again, and elaborated on how his comeback correlated with the film's theme of alternate lives.

"That's another reason why people love our movie, all these questions about, what if?" he said. "When you are faced with a fork in the road, what path would you choose? And we always wonder, what would our life be had we chosen a different path?

"Sometimes I think about it, especially when I was struggling as an actor. I always think about, could I have done something different? Would I have had more opportunities when I was much younger? Knowing where I am today I wouldn't trade it for the world."

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Asked then if he was thinking about the Oscar, he said he was simply "trying to be in the moment" and enjoying one day at a time. "Honestly, when I did this movie, when I decided to get back into acting, I didn't think any of this was possible. I just wanted a job. I just wanted to be in front of the camera again. All these nominations are so, so great. It's already a win for me."

Now, after being shortlisted alongside Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan of The Banshees Of Inisherin, Brian Tyree Henry of Causeway, and Judd Hirsch of The Fabelmans, Ke Huy Quan is an Oscar winner.

Goonies never say die, after all.

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