Ke Huy Quan’s incredible journey from Indiana Jones child star to Oscar winner

Ke Huy Quan left the Oscars audience and viewers at home in floods of tears with his winners speech on Sunday night, as he made Hollywood history by becoming the first ever Asian man to take home the Best Supporting Actor Award.

The 51 year old star triumphed in a star studded category, for his role as Waymond Wang, the metaverse travelling husband of Joy Wang, played by Michelle Yeoh, in this year’s runaway success Everything Everywhere All At Once.

As he made his way to the stage, the actor was in floods of tears and it wasn’t long before fans tuning in at home were too.

“Thank you, thank you,” he told the audience. “My mum is 84 years old and she’s at home watching. Mum, I just won an Oscar!

Quan continued: “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.”

Quan then thanked the academy for “this honour of a lifetime” before turning his attention back to his family and adding: “Thank you to my mum for the sacrifices she made [and] thank you to my brother who calls me everyday to remind me to take care of myself.”

“I owe everything to the love of my life, my wife Echo, who month after month, year after year for 20 years told me that one day my time will come,” he added, through tears. “Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine.

“To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive. Thank you so much for welcoming me back, I love you.”

But who exactly is Ke Huy Quan?

Early Years

Born in 1971 in Vietnam to Chinese parents, Quan didn’t have the easiest start in life, as he was born at the height of the Vietnam war.

Growing up with eight siblings, the family soon fled Vietnam in 1978, with Quan and his father alongside five siblings heading to a refugee camp in Hong Kong, while his mother and three siblings instead fled to Malaysia.

After a gruelling year of being separated, the entire family was later reunited after they were accepted into the United States refugee resettlement program in 1979, before making their home in California.

It was here that Quan began to build a new life for himself, settling in well and school and starting to hone in on his clear love of film and all things cinematic.

Breakout Role

At the tender age of 12, Ke got his first big break, starring alongside Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones sequel: Temple of Doom.

The young star beat out stiff competition from several other children, including his own brother, to earn the now iconic role of Short Round on our screens.

Just one year after the film’s release in 1984, Ke also went on to star in another 1980’s classic The Goonies, before picking up a number of other TV roles, including in Together we Stand (1986-1987) as well as the 1993 Mandarin language TV show The Big Eunuch and the Little Carpenter.

Film School

Despite enjoying an initial round of high profile success, acting jobs soon began to dry up for the star, with Hollywood failing to write meaningful and meaty roles for actors of Asian descent.

He also turned his attention to roles behind the camera rather than in front of it before deciding to formally quit acting in 1998 in order to attend the University of Southern California’s famed film school.

Graduating in 2000, Ke was headhunted by Corey Yuen to help choreograph the fight scenes for superhero blockbuster X-Men that same year, before also going on to help stunt choreograph sci-fi epic The One, starring Martial Arts icon Jet Li just one year later.

A number of production roles then followed, but it wouldn’t be until 2018, that Ke formally decided to return to his roots and once again take up acting.

Return to Acting

Following the success of Crazy Rich Asians in 2018, Quan began to rethink his decision to step back from acting after seeing so many stars of Asian heritage enjoying the commercial success that previously hadn’t existed outside of martial arts films or roles that played on outdated stereotypes.

Speaking to Screen Daily, Ke said: “I was sitting in the theatre, fantasising, wishing I was up there with them,” he recalls.

“It wasn’t like one day I woke up and wanted to be an actor,” he explains.

“It was a conversation I had with my wife over an entire year. When I first brought it up, I was maybe 48, and she was taken aback. Then she was very supportive, but warned me, ‘Ke, are you willing to go out there and audition again and again and get rejected again and again?’”

Admitting he had been scared by the prospect of rejection, Ke revealed that what scared him more was the thought of turning 60 or 70 and still having huge regrets for never having “given his dream a chance.”

Deciding he was going to do it, Ke called up an agent friend and formally admitted he wanted to get back into the acting scene.

Just two weeks later, he auditioned for Everything Everywhere All At Once – a role which would later go on to earn him a historic Best Supporting Actor win.

Personal Life

When he’s not acting, Ke currently lives in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles with his wife Echo Quan.

He also remains good friends with his good friend and former Goonies co-star Jeff Cohen, who also works as his entertainment lawyer.


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