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Thread: Everything Everywhere All At Once

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    Everything Everywhere All At Once

    Gene Ching
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    Our latest exclusive film review on KungFuMagazine.com

    Gene Ching
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    Best Michelle Yeoh Movies You Need to Watch Right Now

    Gene Ching
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    Everything Everywhere: Inside the Craziest Fight Scene You’ll Ever See

    Gene Ching
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    I've interacted with James Hong so many times, but regret we never took a selfie...

    LIVING LEGENDS
    James Hong Really Is Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
    The 93-year-old vet has more than 450 credits under his belt—and, as of this week, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
    BY DONALD LIEBENSON

    MAY 9, 2022

    AMANDA EDWARDS/GETTY IMAGES.

    There’s an old Hollywood joke that encapsulates the supposed five stages of an actor’s career: Who is X? Get me X. Get me an X-type. Get me a young X. And finally, coming full circle: Who is X?

    But after seven decades and more than 450 film and television credits, directors are still saying, “Get me James Hong.” Hong is the quintessential character actor; his name may be unfamiliar, but you’re likely to respond, “Oh, that guy!” if someone tells you he was the maître d’ in the classic Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant.” Evelyn Mulwray’s butler in Chinatown, or the unfortunate airline passenger seated next to oversharing, stuck-in-the-past Ted Striker in Airplane!

    His most recent film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, is the year’s sleeper hit, a bonkers metaverse fantasia in which Hong portrays several variations on the same character, Michelle Yeoh’s disapproving dad. Even he can’t quite get a handle on the film. “I didn’t know whether I wanted to do it or not because the script is so crazy,” he says. “It’s like if you had a nightmare and you woke up and tried to write it down and make a movie out of it. I hope they do a sequel.”

    On May 10, 93-year-old Hong will become the oldest actor yet to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—an honor with deep resonance for a once fledgling performer who came to Hollywood roughly seven decades ago, at a time when roles for Asian American actors were mostly limited to stereotypical characters. But he persevered to carve out his own cinematic universe.

    The breadth and depth of his acting credits is staggering. Hong has been a voice artist for Disney (Mulan), Pixar (Turning Red) and DreamWorks Animation (the Kung Fu Panda series). His TV credits range from Hawaiian Eye to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. He has shared the screen with Clark Gable, Lauren Bacall, and Jack Nicholson, and been directed by John Ford and Roman Polanski, to name just a few.

    He has also served as a role model and inspiration for other actors. In 1965, he cofounded the East West Players to give opportunities and representation to other Asian American actors. It was this, in part, that inspired actor Daniel Dae Kim to launch the campaign to get Hong a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    “I started the campaign simply because many of us in the Asian American community have known about James’s work for decades,” Kim said in an email to Vanity Fair. “I’d learned that he’d actually been rejected for a star in the past, so I thought a more grassroots campaign might help the decision-makers see how worthy he truly is. I posted the idea on social media and started a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for the cost of the star. It ended up being fully funded in a matter of days, which to me was an affirmation that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way about his body of work. It was heartwarming to know how much love there was for him, and what was notable was that the support wasn’t just from the Asian American community. It spanned every demographic…. In fact, I hope that James’s recognition improves the prospects for actors from all underrepresented groups whose work may have been traditionally overlooked.”

    In anticipation of his Walk of Fame ceremony, Hong spoke with Vanity Fair about how an engineering major decided to pursue acting—and, in the process, built one of Hollywood’s most enduring and admired careers.
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    Gene Ching
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    continued from previous

    .
    Hong in Everything Everywhere All at Once. COURTESY OF A24.

    Vanity Fair: What does this honor mean to you?

    James Hong: The star is going to be in front of Madame Tussauds Hollywood, next to the TCL Chinese Theatre [formerly Grauman’s Chinese Theatre]. I’m happy with the location. When I first came to Hollywood, I used to go to that theater and put my feet in those celebrity footprints in the cement. I thought, “Maybe someday I’ll have something here.” It’s a great honor. That it was funded by my fans means a great deal to me.

    I speak for your fans when I say that you are one of those character actors who make whatever you’re in better, just because you’re there.

    I look at every role as something special. Something happens when that camera turns on. Three days ago, I did a relatively low-budget film called Give Me My Money. The director was giving me instructions on how to do a scene. After the take, he said, “My goodness, when that camera turns on, you really give it all you’ve got.”

    You studied civil engineering at the University of Minnesota. What was your career plan?

    My parents obviously wanted me to be something other than an actor. I said, “I’ll be an engineer,” because I like to build things. I went into the Army for the Korean War. After two years of that, I didn’t know what to do. I came out to San Francisco to see if there was an opportunity to do comedy with my comedy partner, Don Parker (a Minneapolis Central High classmate). Then we headed down to Hollywood. I did impressions and a writer took an interest in me. He went to Groucho Marx and told him there was a Chinese comedian who impersonated him. He said, “Bring him on.” So I went on You Bet Your Life. I got the second biggest fan mail ever on this program. So then I thought, Maybe I’d better stay here instead of finishing college at the University of Minnesota. I transferred all my credits to USC and finished my engineering degree as a safety catch in case I failed.

    You Bet Your Life was your first big break and got you an agent, Bessie Loo, who worked with Asian American actors. What was your attitude toward taking stereotypical roles?

    In those days, it was almost all cliché roles. We were villains, busboys, waiters, and shoeshine boys. If you didn’t want to act in a yellowface role, you didn’t get any work at all. I averaged about 10 roles a year, but I put the best I could in each role, so even a clichéd role became human beings. Once in a while there was a colead, but the leading roles were all played by white guys with eye-piece disguises. I was in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, but Charlie Chan was played by J. Carrol Naish. That was a horrible experience. He was not a nice person. He cursed me and told the producers to fire me [after Hong missed a cue].

    I’d like to ask about a few roles for which you may be most recognized, like the maitre d’ on the classic Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant.” Do people yell Seinfeld to you when you are out in public?

    Even my dentist. It was a skeleton script in a way; you didn’t know where the punch lines were. For instance, Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) says, “We would really like a table” and throws $5 on my table as a tip. I didn’t know what to do. Why wouldn’t this maître d’ take that tip? So I instinctively turned the page on the reservation book to cover the $5. That was just out of the blue. The situation grew because of what I know to do as a comedian. Whether it’s Seinfeld, Big Trouble in Little China, or even Blade Runner, you have to know what style they’ve created. You have to investigate all those facets.

    Japanese General, Airplane!

    There’s another example of how to do a cliché role and make it your own. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of sitting next to somebody who just keeps jabbering away and you wish you could just shout, “Why don’t you shut up?” The more he talks, the more you want to kill yourself. That’s what happens to my poor character. [As an actor,] you have to make sense out of nonsense.

    Wealthy Passenger, “The Great Race,” Taxi. I love the look you exchange with Judd Hirsch when you realize he could have cheated you, but instead returned the money that you overtipped him.

    I was playing a happy-go-lucky tourist; I’m in America and enjoying it all. My character pulls out a huge wad of money and says to take it, and then it dawns on him, wait a minute, this guy is refusing money. I’ve never seen that before. In Hong Kong they would take that money, for sure. My character is flabbergasted that there is a man in this world who would refuse a tip. In France I went to the opera, and the usher showed me to my seat and I thanked him and he put his hand out for a tip. I was shocked; whoever heard of an usher asking for a tip? So, I didn’t tip him. He was very perturbed.

    Evelyn’s Butler, Chinatown.

    I will never, ever forget that and The Two Jakes that Jack Nicholson directed. I learned so much from watching Jack Nicholson and [director] Roman Polanski together. How could you not? I admire his acting all the way back to Easy Rider. To act opposite him was a great thrill and honor.

    David Lo Pan, Big Trouble in Little China.

    This is the one that has the most avid fans. Again, it’s the same thing. How do you bring humanity to a supervillain? That’s what I put in Lo Pan: He wants a wife.

    Finally, what advice do you give to actors?

    The only advice I have is this: I came from Minnesota as a total stranger wanting to put my footprint on the sidewalk, and I finally did it after 70 years of hard, hard work. If you believe in yourself and your talent, go for it.
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    Gene Ching
    Publisher www.KungFuMagazine.com
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    Abc + eeaao = d+

    Disney+'s American Born Chinese Is Turning Into an Everything Everywhere All at Once Reunion
    The upcoming show about teenagers embroiled in battles between mythic Chinese gods adds Stephanie Hsu to its lineup.
    By Linda Codega
    Yesterday 5:00PM

    Stephanie Hsu as Jobu Tupaki in Everything Everywhere All at Once
    Hail to Hsu.Photo: Allyson Riggs/Courtesy of A24
    Amid an absolutely stacked cast, Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All at Once, Nora from Queens) has been cast as a guest star in the new Disney+ series American Born Chinese. According to Variety, “Hsu will appear as Shiji Niangniang, the Goddess of Stones, who works in a modern day jewelry shop along with her magical dog.”

    American Born Chinese is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang that depicts the intersection of Chinese mythology and family through the enmeshing of three storylines. Kelvin Yu is poised to write, produce, and act as the showrunner for the show, which already reads as being much more action-oriented than the original graphic novel, which told a grounded, careful storyline amid magic and identity. Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) directs and executive produces.

    In the Disney+ show, the series will follow Jin Wang (Ben Wang), who is struggling to balance his high school social life and the pressures he feels at home. When Jin runs into Chinese exchange student Wei-Chen (Jim Liu) on the first day of school, “their worlds collide as Jin becomes entangled in a battle of Chinese mythological gods. Identity, culture and family are themes throughout,” according to Variety.

    Also in the cast is Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan, both of whom starred alongside Hsu in the Daniels’ multiverse film, Everything Everywhere All at Once. Revealed in a Disney press release, Yeoh (who was also in Cretton’s Shang-Chi) will play Guanyin, an unassuming auntie, who helps her nephew Wei-Chen navigate the challenges of American high school while maintaining her secret identity as the all-powerful Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion. Quan plays as Freddy Wong, a fictional character from a popular mid-1990s sitcom. Also in the cast is Daniel Wu as the Monkey King, Sun Wukong—the legendary, all-powerful god of the Chinese epic Journey to the West, who enters our world in search of his son. There’s no word yet on when American Born Chinese might be premiering, but it’s high on our list of must-watch series when it does.
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