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Ke Huy Quan was just 12 years old when he was offered the chance to audition for “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” It was a decision that forever changed his life.
A few years prior, Quan and his family arrived in Los Angeles from their native Vietnam. A casting director had overheard the preteen practicing lines with his sibling and asked if he wanted to try out for the 1984 action-adventure film that starred Harrison Ford. Quan booked the part as trusty sidekick Short Round.
“Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would end up being an actor,” the now-51-year-old told People magazine for their latest issue.
“But I fell in love with it,” said Quan. “That movie changed my life and my entire family’s life.”
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Quan admitted that he was initially intimidated working alongside Ford and director Steven Spielberg. However, the two stars put the child actor completely at ease.
“They were so kind, and humble and down to Earth,” said Quan. “Just loving people, human beings, that treated each other with nothing but kindness. I have such fond memories of working on it. We spent three weeks in Sri Lanka. We’d hang out by the pool. Harrison taught me how to swim .”
After his major screen debut, Quan starred in another classic, 1985’s “The Goonies.” At first, Quan believed “that I was going to have this amazing career.” But Quan only landed a few minor TV and film roles. He found himself being offered stereotypical parts geared toward Asians.
Fame left as soon as it came.
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“It was tough,” Quan agreed. “I was waiting for the phone to ring, and it rarely did.”
Quan said that in the early 2000s, he made the “very difficult decision” to walk away from acting. Instead, he immersed himself in his studies and graduated from film school at USC. He then focused on working behind the scenes as an assistant director and stunt coordinator.
But 20 years later, Quan saw 2018’s “Crazy Rich Asians” and was inspired to revisit his first love.
“I was happy working behind the camera, but I had serious FOMO,” Quan told the outlet. “I wanted to be up there with my fellow Asian actors!”
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Today, Quan is starring in “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” where he plays three versions of one character named Waymond Wang, a loving husband who travels through multiple universes in an attempt to help his wife (Michelle Yeoh) save the world.
“When I read the script I thought it was written for me because they are me,” he explained. “I understood every single one of them. I don’t think I could have played Waymond had you given me the role 10, 15 years ago. Looking back upon my life, all the highs and lows, I reached deep within me to pour my entire life into these three different characters.”
Quan said he’s aware audiences will best remember him from his two ’80s hits as a child star. However, he’s eager for what Hollywood holds for him today.
“For many, many years people recognized me only as a child [actor] because that was pretty much the last time they saw me up on the screen,” he said. “I’m hoping when people see me now they go, ‘Oh my God! Waymond from ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ – and you were also in ‘Indiana Jones’ [and] ‘Goonies!'”