Everything Everywhere All At Once, the multiple award-winning indie concerns a Chinese family doing taxes and running a laundromat. The matriarch is sent on an otherworldy, action-packed reality test, with her timid husband on a collision course with, well, everything. Along the way, they encounter Dierdre the Bureaucrat and it all breaks loose, the universe is out of control. “The Daniels”, Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert co-wrote and co-directed, giving it eye-popping, fearsome action, a clear vision, lots of heart, and a heck of a cast including legendary action superstar Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Ke Huy Quan. To date, the little film that could has earned a cool $103.5M worldwide and keeps on ticking. What She Said’ Anne Brodie joined an international catchup with the EEAAOers:
Jamie Lee Curtis on co-star Ke Huy Quan’s backstory as it mirrors the film – He’s an example of perseverance and belief in oneself, an understanding of the realities of the industry. At one point he stepped away from it, it rejected him and he created other work. Then making his way back, seeing Crazy Rich Asians and saying, “I think I can do that again”. And then this beautiful multiple-layered role was written. He’s an example for every single person who lost the dream and found it again, that’s the beauty. He has an expansive heart and great talent.
Ke Huy Quan on his role as the Taxman – The last one I couldn’t believe it. I haven’t acted in 20 years and the Daniels said I’m giving you these wonderful roles. I really wanted to do it justice, spent time with myself, and the traditional Chinese family – internalising emotions, which contradicts what an actor does. I buried my emotions for years. I told myself to release the emotions and put them in these characters. The Taxman is a beautiful character, that’s my wife Echo and Jamie Leigh Curtis, I give them the same respect.
Curtis – I was born into a family of actors but had the same emotional life, hiding what I felt. It was a conservative family, and feelings were not discussed, so to meet someone like Dierdre. I knew her, I knew how sad she was, the longing she had, I have known people like her, and I know what power can world and how it can create a face of strength and impenetrability, which is what those jobs do. The joy was the exploration of all of it, the daniels wrote so beautifully.
On prepping with the cast and crew. We didn’t discuss it, and we had very little information about the bigger themes of human existence and experience, so what’s so interesting to me is to have this film with this level of complexity but the truth is we just made this movie in 37 days. It wasn’t a brain meld, and in the end, it was just extraordinary. I’ve been an actor for a long time and my only job is to understand what that character is. What you are going for is none of my business. Did you believe her pain, longing, and rage, if you did then I did that. My job is done. I’m just thrilled the movie speaks to all these levels and layers.
How does Curtis deal with bureaucrats? I give them this look! (cool unblinking stare) What I try to remember is that there is a person behind that bureaucracy who has to deal with all that dogmatic red-taped procedural life. They are human, their dog might have vomited when they woke up and they’re talking to you and you’re worried that their dog is sick. Everything that happens to us happens to these people too. That’s the beauty of Deirdre. She galvanizes us. It’s about the human condition.
Who scared her more, Michelle Yeoh or Michael Myers? Michelle, yeah. On day 2 or 3 the Daniels had me on wires with her knee raised, the Dierdre Beaubeirdre pose! The beauty of being able to fight and learn from Michelle and learn from her vast experience was way more, way, way, way more intimidating than Mr. Myers.
Quan on Asian representation – For the longest time Hwood didn’t write characters for Asian actors, marginalised, with no names, no lines, a lot has changed and that’s really why wanted to be an actor again and I’m so grateful again. What Hwood has done so far, I’m very optimistic moving forward, but we’re not there yet. One day I hope that an Asian actor doesn’t have to justify himself as an actor. I hope we get to play all kinds of Asian characters and not say Chinese or Asian, that’s what I hope. It’s not an anomaly.
And on the legacy of Everything Everywhere At At Once–
Curtis – The legacy is love no matter what happens, reconciliation, honesty, family, failure and triumph and the quotidian everyday parts of life were all struggling with. Somehow these guys made a movie about love, which makes me very happy.
Quan – So many people came up to me and told me how our movie changed their lives, to be a better person, love, and kindness and I hope your movie can make people be a little more kind to each other, considering what’s happened to the world for the last couple of years, and respect. Jamie sent us all a poster that said Be Kind, Be Kind.