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Ke Huy Quan says Oscars speech was a chance to 'publicly' thank his refugee parents

“I grew up in a family where we just don’t share our emotions with each other,” Quan told Variety. “I wanted to do that publicly. I wanted the world to know how much my parents meant to me.”
Image: Ke Huy Quan, winner of the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for "Everything Everywhere All at Once," attends the Vanity Fair 95th Oscars Party in Los Angeles on March 12, 2023.
Ke Huy Quan, winner of the Oscar for best supporting actor for "Everything Everywhere All at Once," at the Vanity Fair Oscars party in Los Angeles on Sunday.Michael Tran / AFP - Getty Images file

After his big win at the Oscars on Sunday, Ke Huy Quan of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” looked back on his early days as a refugee fleeing Vietnam — a journey that would ultimately put him on a path toward Hollywood history.

Speaking with Variety the day after the ceremony, Quan, who took home the award for best supporting actor, recounted how his family fled after the Vietnam War. Quan said that at the time, he didn’t understand why his parents deemed it necessary to leave. 

“I was a normal kid in Vietnam and all of a sudden, my parents decided to flee. … It was in the middle of the night. My dad and five of my other siblings escaped on a boat,” said Quan, who was 7 years old when his family left. “We got to Hong Kong and all of a sudden I was in a refugee camp surrounded with guards and police officers.” 

Quan, who’s only the second Asian to win in his Oscar category, explained that his family stayed in the refugee camp for a year before attaining political asylum and making their way to the U.S. 

In his Variety interview, he explained that he had wanted to thank his family for their decision to flee for some time. His acceptance speech at the Oscars happened to be the perfect outlet. 

“I grew up in a family where we just don’t share our emotions with each other,” he said. “Last night, I wanted to do that publicly. I wanted the world to know how much my parents meant to me. To do that on the biggest stage — that felt amazing.” 

Quan explained that not long after his family moved to the U.S., he found early stardom with his role as Short Round in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” kicking off his career in the entertainment industry.

“As fate would have it, four years later, I landed a job at ‘Indiana Jones’ that changed my life,” Quan said. 

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During his acceptance speech, he told the crowd that his “journey started on a boat.” 

“And somehow I ended up here on Hollywood’s biggest stage. They say stories like this only happen in the movies,” Quan said. “I cannot believe it’s happening to me. This is the American dream.” 

For Quan, the Oscars concluded an immensely successful awards season for his critically acclaimed portrayal of Waymond Wang, a doting husband who 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. Earlier in the year, he took home the best supporting actor award at the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice Awards and the Gotham Awards, among others.