Rafu Wire Service and Staff Reports
The madcap multiverse tale “Everything Everywhere All At Once” was the big winner Feb. 26 at the 29th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, winning in four of the five categories in which it was nominated, including Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture, SAG’s equivalent of the Academy Awards’ Best Picture.
The awards ceremony at the Fairmont Century Plaza, which was streamed on Netflix’s YouTube channel, also included trophies for Michelle Yeoh for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role; Jamie Lee Curtis for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role (beating out castmate Stephanie Hsu and Hong Chau of “The Whale”); and Ke Huy Quan for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
The star of “The Whale,” Brendan Fraser, won for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role and acknowledged Chau, who played his character’s nurse and only friend, in his acceptance speech.
The SAG Awards are among the most cherished Hollywood honors for performers because they are voted upon exclusively by other actors. The awards are also strong predictors of who will win the acting prizes on Oscar night.
In “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a middle-aged Chinese immigrant, Evelyn Wang (Yeoh), is swept up into an insane adventure in which she alone can save existence by exploring other universes and connecting with the lives she could have led. Quan plays her husband Waymond; Hsu plays her daughter Joy; Curtis plays IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre.
During her acceptance speech, an emotional Yeoh, 60, referenced the historical struggles of Asian actors in getting roles in Hollywood, saying, “This is not just for me, this is for every little girl that looks like me.”
“So many of us need this,” she said. “We want to be seen, we want to be heard and tonight, you have shown us that it is possible, and I am grateful, and my mom will be eternally grateful.”
Addressing her fellow actors, she added, “SAG-AFTRA, to get this from you, who understands what it is to get here — you know the journey, the roller-coaster ride, the ups and downs. But most important, we never give up.”
Yeoh’s other credits include the James Bond film “Tomorrow Never Dies” (1997), “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) and its sequel, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” (2016), the TV series “Star Trek: Discovery” (2017-2020), “Crazy Rich Asians” (2018), “Last Christmas” (2019) and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” (2021). Her upcoming films include “Avatar” and “Transformers” sequels and the big-screen adaptation of the stage musical “Wicked.”
If Yeoh wins the best actress Oscar, she will be the second person of Asian descent to do so. Merle Oberon won for “The Dark Angel” (1935), but for most of her life she concealed the fact that her mother had South Asian and Maori ancestry.
Quan, a former child star (“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “The Goonies”) who, like Yeoh, is also coming off a Golden Globe win, echoed her thoughts.
“This is a really emotional moment for me,” he said. “Recently, I was told that if I were to win tonight, I would become the very first Asian actor to win in this category. When I heard that, I realized that this moment no longer belongs to just me. It also belongs to everyone who has asked for change.
“When I stepped away from acting, it was because there were so few opportunities. Now, tonight, we are celebrating James Hong, Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Hong Chau, Harry Shum Jr. The landscape looks so different now than before.”
Hong and Shum also starred in “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”
Yeoh and Quan won in two of the six Golden Globe categories in which the film was nominated.
Curtis, a first-time SAG nominee and a surprise winner over Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), referenced her late parents, actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, and joked that when she landed her first role in the 1970s she was considered a “nepo baby.”
But she added, in a serious vein, “The truth of the matter is, I’m 64 years old and this is amazing. … What a dream.”
The win was particularly sweet for Hong, 94, whose 500+ screen credits go back to the mid-1950s. In his acceptance speech he mentioned the yellowface history of “The Good Earth” (1937), a film about Chinese farmers that starred Paul Muni and Luise Rainer, who won an Oscar for best actress.
“The leading role was played with these guys with their eyes taped up like this and they talked like this [with a fake accent] because the producers said the Asians were not good enough and they were not box office,” said Hong. “But look at us now!”
He closed his speech by saying, “I hope I will come back when I’m 100 years old!”
Andy Le and Brian Le, who play minor but menacing martial artists in “Everything Everywhere,” each took one of Hong’s arms and helped him down the makeshift stairs at the back of the stage and into the hallway.
Hong’s other films include “Flower Drum Song” (1961), “The Sand Pebbles” (1966), “The Hawaiians” (1970), “Chinatown” (1974), “Airplane!” (1980), “Blade Runner” (1982), “Big Trouble in Little China” (1986), “The Golden Child” (1986), “The Two Jakes” (1990), “Wayne’s World 2” (1993), “Mulan” (1998), “Balls of Fury” (2007), “Kung Fu Panda” (2008), “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (2008), “R.I.P.D.” (2013), “Abominable” (2019), “Turning Red” (2022) and the upcoming “Patsy Lee and the Keepers of the 5 Kingdoms,” which he also co-wrote and co-produced.
Some online commentators suggested there was irony in Mark Wahlberg, who presented best ensemble, handing out the night’s final award to a film with a predominantly Asian and Asian American cast. In 1988, a 16-year-old Wahlberg attacked two Vietnamese men while trying to steal beer near his home in Dorchester, Mass. Wahlberg, who said race wasn’t a factor in the assault, served 45 days of a two-year sentence.
“Everything Everywhere” also won the Directors Guild of America award for Best Theatrical Film, which went to co-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (who are billed simply as “Daniels”), and the Producers Guild of America award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, which went to Kwan, Scheinert and their long-time collaborator Jonathan Wang.
Only one film (“Apollo 13”) won the top SAG, DGA and PGA awards and did not go on to win best picture at the Oscars.