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Cinema

‘It’s Fate.’ 40 Years Later, Ke Huy Quan is a Star, Again

December 9, 2022

NEW YORK — Ke Huy Quan is trying hard not to cry.

He’s been crying a lot lately. Quan tends to get emotional any time he contemplates his sudden reversal of fate. Every since “Everything Everywhere All at Once” opened in theaters earlier this year, 51-year-old Quan — who a lifetime ago was the iconic child star of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” as Short Round, and Data in “Goonies” — has been, he says, “overwhelmed by emotions every day.”

“I didn’t think this day would come. It was a day I wanted for so long, for decades. And it’s finally here,” says Quan. “When you have a dream and you kind of bury it because you think it won’t come true, to see it finally come true is incredible.”

“I cry a lot,” he says.

Quan was once one of the most indelible faces — and voices — of the 1980s. He was 12 when he was cast as Harrison Ford’s Yankee-hat-wearing sidekick in “Temple of Doom.” His younger brother, David, auditioned, but Ke caught Spielberg’s eye. Quan starred in 1985′s “Goonies,” too, but found few roles after that. By the time Quan was in his 20s, he had all but disappeared from the screen. Struggling to find a foothold at a time when roles were scarce for Asian American actors, the Vietnamese-born Quan passed into “Where are they now?” territory.

FILE – Producer George Lucas, from left, actors Kate Capshaw and Ke Huy Quan appear with director Steven Spielberg in London where they are attending the “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” premiere in London on June 11, 1984. (AP Photo/Joe Schaber, File)

Quan gave up acting. He went back to school to study film at the University of Southern California and transitioned into working behind the camera. Twenty years passed before he acted again. But when Quan was 49, he decided to give it one last go. Two weeks later, he landed his role in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

Now, Quan is not just a working actor again, with a string of upcoming roles, he’s being celebrated for one of the best performances of the year. He plays Waymond, the meek husband who transforms in the film’s spiraling multiverses into a fanny-pack-slinging hero and a debonair “In the Mood for Love”-style bachelor. Decades may have passed, but Quan’s sweetly sincere screen presence still shines.

The 51-year-old actor has already picked up awards from the Gotham Awards, the New York Film Critics Circle and has been nominated for a Spirit Award. After spending much of his adult life as an actor just looking for a second chance, Quan may be the favorite to win an Academy Award, for best supporting actor.

“For the longest time, all I wanted was just a job,” Quan says. “Just an opportunity to act, to show people what I can do. This movie, ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once,’ has given me so much beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

While speaking by Zoom during his day off shooting Anthony and Joe Russo’s “Electric State” in Atlanta,” Quan’s wife was nearby off-camera urging him: “Don’t cry! Don’t cry!” Quan tried. But as he reflected on his extraordinary journey, he often found it difficult.

“There are so many people out there who doubt themselves, who have dreams they’ve given up or didn’t think would ever come true,” Quan said, his voice cracking. “To those people, I hope my story inspires them.”

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