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How Everything Everywhere All At Once made Oscar history

It was a record year for Asian performances and films at the box office and awards

eeaao cast
Rebecca Lewis
Rebecca Lewis - Los Angeles
Los Angeles correspondentLos Angeles
12 March 2023
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This past year has been was a record one for AAPI cinema with Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu all Oscar nominated for their work in Everything Everywhere All At Once, along with Hong Chau for The Whale. EEAAO, directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, made history at the 2023 Oscars, winning six awards out of 11 nominations, including Best Picture.  (Michelle won Best Actress, while Ke Best Supporting Actor and both gave emotional acceptance speeches.) But for many in the Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, the film's success means more than just a bunch of trophies.  

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"As an Asian American, the success of Ke, Michelle, Hong, Stephanie, Daniels, and many other Asians in the diaspora felt so freeing. It's so hard to explain how amazing it felt to feel seen by having these creatives recognized for their work that we've been kinda discouraged to do our whole lives,' said Laura Sirikul, an Asian-American film critic. "Seeing Michelle, Ke, and Stephanie get recognized for roles that were limitless felt like we were finally getting recognized."

WATCH: Everything Everywhere All At Once is a genre-bending thriller

In its almost 100-year history less than 20 Asian actors have been nominated at the Academy Awards; 2023 has the highest number of Asian actors ever nominated across the acting categories. ·

EEAAO is a genre-bending thriller that follows Michelle's middle-aged Evelyn Wang, a dissatisfied laundromat owner who gets swept up into an insane adventure in which she alone can save existence by exploring other universes and connecting with the lives she could have led.

Ke stars as her husband Waymond Wang, while Stephanie plays dual roles as their daughter Joy Wang and Jobu Tupaki, the Alphaverse version of Joy, who has created an 'everything bagel' black hole that could destroy the entire multiverse.

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Michelle stars as the universe-jumping Evelyn Wang

Critical acclaim saw the film lead the 2023 Oscars with 11 nominations - the most of any film this year - ultimately winning six, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Supporting Actor.

Ke's awards season has been an almost complete sweep (except for the Bafta which went to Irish star Barry Keoghan) and for many the 51-year-old star, who did not work for almost three decades because of the lack of roles he was offered, is a sure bet for the little gold man on March 12.

Ke found fame in the 1980s working with Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg in Indiana Jones, and later The Goonies, and in his many acceptance speeches he has praised his peers and fans for their warmth as he returns to the spotlight.

MORE: The most show-stopping red carpet looks from the 2023 Oscars

"I’m so grateful," Ke shared earlier in the year, during an appearance on the Late Show, adding: "I thought everybody had forgotten about me. But since the movie came out, there’s been so much positivity and so much kindness."

Hong, 43, also considered quitting acting after criticism she received for her work as a Vietnamese working-class woman in Downsizing, a role she stands by to this day.

But now, after taking a break to welcome her daughter, she says "the work is coming in organically, I love that it’s happening that way".


Hong Chau almost quit acting

For Michelle, however, the 60-year-old has never stopped working.

A win for the Best Actress statue at the Oscar is a little less certain thanks to the acclaim for Cate Blanchett's work in Todd Field's Tar, but Michelle scooped the SAG - making her the first Asian woman to win the category - and an Indie Spirit award.

Michelle is also the first self-identifying Asian lead actress nominee in Academy history (Merle Oberon was nominated in 1936 for The Dark Angel, but at the time her heritage was concealed).

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Michelle became the first Asian woman to win the SAG for lead actress

In her emotional SAG acceptance speech, Michelle said: "We want to be seen. We want to be heard. And tonight, you have shown us that it is possible. And I am grateful. And my mom will be eternally grateful to you."

Stephanie, 32, told Deadline of her co-star: "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."

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Stephanie, 32, acknowledged the path Michelle has blazed for others

It is a big deal. There are 22.9 million Asian Americans and 1.6 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders across the U.S, according to 2019 Census data, but a January 2023 Pew Research Center survey discovered that a third of Asian Americans have changed their daily routes due to fear of violence amid bigoted, misplaced COVID-19 blame and US-China tensions.

"AAAPIs across the country have found themselves in the crosshairs of racial harassment, discrimination, vandalism, and violence," a statement read.

A recent study by the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media also found nearly half of all Asian roles in Hollywood films and TV shows serve as a mere comedic punchline.

"I hope studios will take chances on more AAPI actors that aren't already big names," added Laura. "Studios need to take some chances on undiscovered Asian diasporic talent like they do with their white counterparts. We just need the opportunity."

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