Just after Everything Everywhere All At Once had swept the Screen Actors Guild Awards, 94-year-old James Hong recalled a time when Hollywood saw Asian actors as “not box office”.
“But look at us now, huh?” remarked the star of nearly 700 films and television shows, to thunderous applause.
The breakout sci-fi comedy’s mostly Asian and Asian-American cast, including Hong, has already received a slew of awards. Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan became the first Asians to win best female actor and best male supporting actor at the SAG Awards. They are now competing for Hollywood’s highest honor, the Oscars. The film has received 11 nominations, with four of those nominees being of Asian descent.
However, Hollywood’s Asian moment appears to be long overdue. Since the Oscar success of Bong Joon-darkly ho’s satirical Parasite and Lee Isaac Chung’s haunting Minari, it has certainly been building. This year has also seen the release of the Indian action epic RRR. However, streaming platforms have long led the way with smash hits such as Squid Game and Pachinko.
“Hollywood is finally catching up with the rest of the world,” says Diana Othman, a Singaporean film buff who sees over 100 new films each year. She praised Yeoh’s nomination in one of the “whitest” Oscar categories. If she wins, Yeoh will be the first Asian woman to receive the award for Best Actress.
But, whether or not the Oscar voters agree, 60-year-old Yeoh, who has been in the business for four decades, is already a superstar.
“If I’m being honest, her winning is better for the Oscars than the Oscars are for her,” says Filipino filmmaker Quark Henares, likening it to “the afterglow the Academy enjoyed after the Parasite win”.