Ke Huy Quan has won the Academy Award for best supporting actor.
Quan took home the Oscar on Sunday for his critically acclaimed role as a doting husband in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
“My mom is 84 years old, and she’s at home watching,” an emotional Quan said in his acceptance speech. “Mom, I just won an Oscar.”
The distinction makes Quan, who is Chinese Vietnamese, the second actor of Asian descent to win in his category. The first was Haing Ngor, a Chinese Cambodian refugee, who won for his role in the 1984 drama “The Killing Fields.” Quan beat out Brendan Gleeson and Barry Keoghan, both for “The Banshees of Inisherin”; Brian Tyree Henry for “Causeway”; and Judd Hirsch for “The Fabelmans.”
In his speech, Quan also looked back on his experience as a Vietnamese refugee.
“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. They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American dream.”
The Oscar is the latest in a series of awards Quan has nabbed for the role, in which his character helps save the multiverse while trying to keep his failing marriage and family together. He previously won outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, becoming the first Asian to win in the category. Before that, he took home the best supporting actor award at the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Movie Awards and the Gotham Awards, among others.
While “Everything Everywhere” has catapulted him into the spotlight, previously Quan has been open about his struggles in Hollywood, particularly after he reached early success as a child actor in the 1980s. His career began with the 1984 blockbuster hit “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” in which he played Indiana Jones’ kid sidekick, Short Round. The next year, he found himself in yet another iconic role as neighborhood rascal Data in “The Goonies.” However, the opportunities dried up, Quan said, and he decided to abandon his acting career for work behind the camera.
“Hollywood didn’t want me. There were no roles for me, so I spent the majority of my time in my late teens and early 20s just waiting for the phone to ring, and it rarely rang,” Quan said at The Hollywood Reporter’s “Actors Roundtable” on Tuesday. “The difficult part was to say goodbye to the dream that I always wanted, but it was just difficult to be an Asian actor at that time.”
Although Quan became respected behind the scenes as a stunt coordinator and an assistant director, working on projects like “X-Men,” he said the blockbuster hit “Crazy Rich Asians” prompted his change of heart.
Quan said on the “Roundtable” that the expanding roles for Asian actors, in part, symbolized, led him to get back into the acting game.
“I realized Hollywood has changed dramatically. They’re giving more opportunities to a wider group of people,” Quan said. “I said, ‘Maybe I should try acting again.’”
Although Quan was able to book “Everything Everywhere,” he still had difficulties finding work after production wrapped, he said on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” last month. And he feared that he was “experiencing everything I experienced as a kid.” But since the movie’s release, Quan said, his career has significantly turned around. He’ll be featured in the coming Disney series “American Born Chinese” as well as the second season of Marvel’s “Loki.”
Quan credited his wife, Echo, in his acceptance speech for giving him the encouragement he needed to give acting another go.
"Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine," he said. "To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive."