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After a year of long overdue Hollywood love, actor James Hong is still having his moment

The "Everything Everywhere All at Once" star has multiple projects lined up after a pivotal year in his decades-long career.
James Hong in Pasadena, Calif., on Nov. 10, 2019.
James Hong in Pasadena, Calif., in 2019.Amanda Edwards / Getty Images file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Greeted with a standing ovation at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, James Hong could easily have just basked in the applause and moved on. But for the 94-year-old, the mostly Asian cast of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” winning best cast seemed like an opportunity for a stark reminder that Hollywood wasn’t always so open.

“It just came out of me that after all these years of working with producers and directors, and they were always saying, ‘Oh the Asian, the Chinese, are not good enough to play the leading role,’” Hong told The Associated Press. “But look at Michelle (Yeoh) and all these colleagues now coming forward to be recognized ... You can’t help but say ‘Look at us now.’”

The last year has been a wild ride for Hong. He finally received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Shortly after, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” and the overwhelming response propelled the actor into every major awards event. He got to see the movie collect seven Oscars, including a historic best actress win for Yeoh.

Viewers will soon be able to hear Hong in “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai,” an animated prequel series of the movie franchise streaming on Max. He also appears in an episode of the new Disney+ show, “American Born Chinese,” and is producer on the upcoming movie “Patsy Lee and the Keepers of the 5 Kingdoms.”

“Gremlins” showrunner Tze Chun is one of several Asian American filmmakers who have gotten emotional seeing Hong celebrated. Melvin Mar, one of the producers of “American Born Chinese,” teared up when he spoke to him right before his Walk of Fame ceremony.

“That guy is a legend beyond legend,” Mar said. “He was just so funny and quick and just a pleasure to have on set. Just the sweetest guy.”

Gene Luen Yang, author of the “American Born Chinese” graphic novel and also a producer on the show, says Hong’s life epitomizes Asian American history.

“His journey in Hollywood really is symbolic of us as Asian Americans. The kind of roles that he was offered in the beginning to now having his own Hollywood star, it shows the kind of progress that we’ve made,” Yang said.