Ke Huy Quan Fights Through Tears While Winning Best Supporting Actor Oscar: ‘This Is the American Dream!’

Ke Huy Quan Oscars Best Supporting Actor Win
Rich Polk for Variety

Ke Huy Quan, a child star who returned to the spotlight after decades for “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” won the Oscar for best supporting actor.

Earning the first standing ovation of the night, Quan took the stage and shouted out his 84-year-old mother, who is watching at home. “Mom, I just won an Oscar!”

For Quan, the victory marks an especially emotional coda to awards season. He rose to fame before his teenage years, playing Harrison Ford’s sidekick in 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and appearing in 1985’s “The Goonies.” But Quan quit acting shortly after because he found there weren’t many substantial film roles for Asian people. He didn’t return to acting until 2021 in “Everything Everywhere” as Waymond Wang, the goofy husband to Michelle Yeoh’s multiverse-straddling laundromat owner.

“My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp. And somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage,” he said through tears. “They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American dream!”

He’s been the toast of awards season, winning statues at the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards, in addition to landing his first Oscar nod. It’s a touching coincidence that he’s been able to traverse the awards circuit with Steven Spielberg, who worked with Quan on “Indiana Jones” and is nominated for directing the semi-autobiographical drama “The Fabelmans.” Later in the night, Quan was able to hug Ford, who presented best picture to “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

“Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine,” he said while fighting back tears. “To all of you out there, please keep your dream alive.”

Before exiting the stage, Quan expressed his gratitude to the Academy and Hollywood. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you so much for welcoming me back.”

Quan was nominated alongside Judd Hirsch for “The Fabelmans,” Brendan Gleeson for “The Banshees of Inisherin,” Barry Keoghan for “The Banshees of Inisherin” and Bryan Tyree Henry for “Causeway.”

Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” premiered at 2022’s SXSW to critical and commercial acclaim. At the box office, the film became the rare pandemic-era indie smash with $100 million globally. It stands as A24’s highest-grossing release of all time. 

It’s no small feat that the movie has managed to not only stay in — but also dominate — the Oscar conversation for 12 months. During its record awards season, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” became only the fifth film in history to sweep the four major guild awards (DGA, PGA, SAG and WGA). It was up for 11 Academy Awards, the most of any film this year, including nominations for best picture, best director for the Daniels, and best supporting actress for Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis and best actress for Yeoh.  It won best picture and six other trophies.

Before his big comeback, Quan lost his health insurance during COVID because he was out of work. “Everything Everywhere” was filmed in early 2020, but its theatrical release was delayed by two years due to the pandemic.

“I called my agent and said, ‘Can you please get me anything? It doesn’t matter, I just need one job to make the minimum requirement for health insurance,'” he recently recounted on “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” “And I could not get one single job.”

At that point, he realized that his career may rise or fall on the success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” So, he called a producer to ask, “Can you please tell me one thing? Am I good in the movie? Nobody wants to hire me.”

He recalled, “[The producer said], ‘Ke, Just be patient. You just wait.'”