Ke Huy Quan from Everything Everywhere All at Once was a big winner at the 20th annual Unforgettable Gala on Saturday evening in Beverly Hills. The yearly awards show honors Asian Pacific Islander artists and leaders in entertainment and culture. Quan won the best-actor-in-film award for his emotional and action-packed performance as a kind father and husband who ultimately is the heart of Everything Everywhere All at Once. He already has received accolades from the Gotham Awards and the New York Film Critics Circle, and has earned nominations for the Golden Globes and the Film Independent Spirit Awards.
“This is a really special night for me. To be recognized by the AAPI community means the world to me,” Quan told Vanity Fair on the red carpet at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. “For the longest time I wanted a night like this for the AAPI community, to celebrate each other. Honestly, I wouldn’t be here without all of the amazing talent in our community. They have shown me through their own success that there was a way back for me to acting. They are the ones that gave me the courage to dream again, so it means the world to me to be here.”
Nearly four decades ago, Quan became famous for his iconic roles in 1984’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as Short Round, and as Data, the gadgeteer, in the 1985 film The Goonies. But, in the 1990s, he was forced to step away from acting when roles were rare for Asian American actors. He went back to school to study film at the University of Southern California and transitioned into working behind the camera and as a stunt coordinator. After spending much of his adult life away from acting, he got a second chance when he landed his role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. After roughly 20 years out of the spotlight, he’s back and being celebrated for giving one of the best performances of the year.
“Being nominated for awards was something I never thought of. I just wanted to work as an actor, really that was it,” said Quan. “So to be here today and to win an award, I’m overwhelmed with emotion.”
Quan’s Goonies costars Sean Astin, who played Mikey, the leader of the group of friends, and Jeff Cohen, best known as the fan-favorite character Chunk, made a special appearance together at the Unforgettable Gala to present the award to Quan.
“Goonies never say die!” exclaimed Astin at the podium. Astin told the audience that he has remained close friends with Quan for nearly 40 years and described him as “Kindness, loyalty, strength, love, purity” while Cohen shared that he and Quan celebrate the holidays together with their families every year. “I will tell you, if you need someone to say the prayer over your Hanukkah candles, Ke Huy Quan is your man. There’s literally nothing that he cannot do,” Cohen said in his remarks. “He’s always been an amazing actor, a kind person, every room that he enters, he lights up. He wants people to be happy.”
Cohen, now a lawyer, also revealed that he is Quan’s entertainment attorney. “When the Everything Everywhere All at Once producer was negotiating my deal, he had to call and talk to Jeff,” Quan said during his acceptance speech. “And later, he told me that never in his life would he have to talk to Chunk to get Data to be in his movie. It was really funny.”
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known together as the Daniels) took home the best-director award for Everything Everywhere All at Once, while Stephanie Hsu won the breakout-in-film award for her moving performance as Joy, the alienated daughter of Quan’s Waymond and Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn.
“The world of storytelling felt so far away,” Hsu said during her acceptance speech about the early days of her career where she was one of two Asian people in her acting class. “If you don’t see it, you just can’t possibly imagine that it’s ever going to be you or your friends up there or people who look like you.” But the success of Everything Everywhere All at Once has given her validation, she said.
“I feel like I never allowed myself to really love doing this because I’ve been so scared that it would never be possible and I feel like this year has given me so much permission to truly love what I do,” she said. “I hope to make y’all proud and I’m so excited to keep going.”
The breakout-in-TV award was handed out to Minha Kim of Pachinko, with the critically acclaimed series also receiving this year’s Vanguard Award. Sandra Oh presented Domee Shi and Julia Cho the best writer award for Pixar’s Turning Red, while Steven Yeun received the legacy award. The night’s other honoree included two-time Olympic Gold medal winner Chloe Kim, who has gone on hiatus from competitive snowboarding and is now focused on a career in acting.