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'Everything at the Same Time' Producer Jonathan Wang on Asian Rep, Hot Dog Fingers, and Why He Wants to Get 'Weirder' With Storytelling

Everything Everywhere All At Once The idea was born in Press conference for Swiss Army Man, Daniel Radcliffe-Paul Dano’s flatulent corpse hands put directorial duo Daniels on the map. Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan watched Fight Club and The Matrix double feature and were inspired. Producer and longtime creative partner

Jonathan Wang recalls, “It was like running away from the Swiss Army Man media we jumped into Everything Everywhere. ” They immediately started writing the script and started filming 2021. Wang said timing was both a curse and a blessing. “We had to edit it for over a year because of the pandemic,” he said. “That’s what brought us to where it is now.”

Everything Everywhere Passed by All Traditions The measure was a success, grossing over $100 million dollars worldwide and $14 million dollar budget and dozens of awards collected, but also some unexpected ones. THR spoke to Wang about bringing former child star Ke Huy Quan back to Hollywood after he quit acting, making Michelle Yeoh the lead in an American film breaking the Asian representation barrier for the first time.

Aside from working with Daniels again, what excites you about being part of this project?

When we started talking about the multiverse, I realized that distinct immigrant experiences exist within the multiverse. It felt like my story when they wanted to set it up as a Chinese working class family who spoke Chinese, English and Cantonese. At the end of the movie, there are two credits, the fake one and the real one. The first one says it was made by my dad Alexander Wang, and then the final movie is dedicated to him. He died after the Swiss Army Man. This movie is a love letter to our immigrant parents.

How did your parents react to this movie?

June Kwan is very funny. She called Dan after the nomination and said, “Explain to me why your movie is good.” That was a very Chinese mom reaction. My mom was a really lovely church going, God fearing woman. I worry that she won’t understand the film and will be freaked out by some of the more edgy approaches. But, she told me, her friend Phyllis from church brought her whole family and they really liked it, and they were able to nail the theme. My mom has seen it three times, I think, and is very happy and proud.

Did the response to this film surprise you?

We knew what this movie meant to us when we made it, we knew it was about us of immigrant families, but we don’t know exactly how much of this is about teasing trauma. Once we put it out in the world, the first question we got at SXSW was, “So, this movie is about generational trauma, please talk to us.”

That storyline really struck a cultural chord. The reactions we get from Asian audiences, especially Asian queer audiences, mean the world to them. Because they had to come out to their parents multiple times. They have to keep telling their parents, “I’m gay.” It’s not that Asian parents don’t want to accept it, they just know how hard it is to survive in America as an immigrant. They know how hard it is to make money, that’s why they want to force these things on their kids to ensure assimilation and success. That’s why you hear these tropes about Chinese parents pushing their kids to become doctors, lawyers, etc. The movie helped them express that, helped them see their parents, and helped parents see their children. Hearing all these stories of families reconnecting, or kids actually being able to have meaningful conversations with their parents for the first time, that’s the joy of dying knowing we can help in small ways.

How concerned are you about the awards?

Very very very humble and very cool. It’s hard to understand because we never set out to make an award-winning movie. We wanted to make a film that was true to the story we wanted to tell and unwavering in its creativity. So we have to make the movies we want and have audiences react in that way, and the awards keep coming, it’s just so incomprehensible. It gives me a lot of optimism and hope for the kind of stories we want to keep telling. Now it feels like we’re allowed to take the stories we tell and get weirder and push the envelope because of this movie. It’s going to be very exciting for us and for other filmmakers. I was so excited to watch those movies.

There are weirdos?

I hope so. I think so. Being weird for the sake of being weird has never been something we like to do, but being weird for the sake of the human experience. I’m a big fan of Dostoyevsky, and there’s so much eccentricity and humanity in Dostoevsky’s work. Like the fact that we all know we are all going to die and decompose. We all know our bodily functions are hilarious to some people, or disgusting that we want to hide. But, the truth is, we are these things. We have those things in us and that’s what leads to the Swiss Army Man. To explore humanity, to explore the depths of human experience, is to explore the strange. So, when I say weird, it’s more about being able to look at that part of ourselves that we might have said we couldn’t tell the story about. I wish stories could get weirder, in that sense, if only they were more human and honest.

Which multiverse world is the most difficult to achieve?

Most challenging shoot is rock world even without cast, because we had to drive to the desert. Larkin [Seiple, cinematographer] really wanted to find this location, and it turns out that’s actually where he proposed to his wife, Emma. We had to go to Anza-Borrego Springs in the middle of summer, during COVID, we had to wear masks and shields, that was 100 or 110 degrees of weather. I had to hold two umbrellas over the camera to keep it from overheating and our truck nearly got stuck. So that one is hard to finish.

I would be remiss not to bring this up. You have Michelle Yeoh: The Legend. Jamie Lee Curtis: A legend. And hot dog fingers?

Yes. It was the biggest laugh I’ve ever seen on set with the two of them doing the hot dog mating ritual. I’m sitting next to Stephanie Hsu, who’s dressed up as a teenage version of herself with punk angst. So here’s Stephanie Hsu and me looking emotional, we both look like kids because when we watch two legends stick hot dog fingers in each other’s mouths and squirt condiments on each other, we’re like Dizzy trying not to laugh. It’s a testament to how cool Jamie and Michelle are, how professional they are, and how much they trust Daniels. The recklessness with which they had just relinquished control of Daniels and let them do whatever they wanted was insane. That’s what makes this movie so good, because they’re just really releasing themselves in the process rather than fighting it. You just feel it in the movie. You can feel this real earnestness that they bring and why Jamie is so good, why Michelle is so good. Because, as ridiculous as it is, they trusted Daniel’s and then they put a real heart and a real love into it, and it was really fun and entertaining to watch.

This is one of the things you’re looking at, you’re gonna , well, it shouldn’t be good, but it is. I swear I still laugh at Racacoonie at least once a week.

Racacoonie was also inspired by my dad. I talked about this in the The Hollywood Reporter roundtable, but as we all know, he always is the carnage movie title. When he was alive, he didn’t expect that he would play movies whenever he was free. He’d watch Turner classics like Godfather . I remember watching Coming to America with him. Not just elegant, it’s also like low brow, all round. And he always kills titles. So he wanted to go see James Bond with Pierce Brosnan, GoldenEye , and he said, ‘Let’s go see Double Seven ).’ He said Shookie Hookie for Sherlock Holmes, he said Outside Good People Shooting is goodwill hunting. It’s just his thing, Daniels knows that joke about my dad. When they first wrote the very early drafts, the Racacoonie joke was there almost from day one, and that joke never went away. Same goes for hot dog hands. Those weird ones shouldn’t be good, but it turns out that the good moments are in Daniels’ wheelhouse, and whenever something like this shouldn’t exist, it shouldn’t be good, and that’s when they’re most inspired.

Was there a specific moment when you were filming, Feel like all the pieces are clicking?

The scene that really freezes the whole movie is Evelyn and Joey-slash-job in the parking lot The scene of the reunion. I remember sitting in the tent outside San Fernando and I cried because it was so beautiful. It was a big risk to have such a big, rowdy movie collapse into that parking lot scene. If we don’t do that, if we don’t feel our heartstrings being pulled in that moment, you don’t end up. I looked and everyone was crying and that was this very obvious experience. I was like, “I think it’s all going to work. It’s going to be good.”

This is great for Ke Huy Quan Said it was an important moment. What was it like watching him during filming and then seeing the final product and how people reacted to him?

When I look at The Goonies , I agree with the data. When I watch Indiana Jones , I love Short Round. That was my childhood idol. I love that kid. But the thing about Ko is that his career [has] been killed. He didn’t get the parts. He’d get scripts where his character didn’t even have a name and was a tropey Asian character with an accent, [while] Corey Feldman and Sean Astin and Josh Brolin were shooting on the roof. It was a small death for him. That’s why it’s so moving and powerful to see him now, because he literally got a second chance, and that’s what he needed.

But when we were in the trenches of editing the film, I did get a call from him, and he said, “Honestly, I’m good at nowhere Not in ?” I was like, “Where is this problem coming from?” He said, “I just can’t get any parts. I can’t land any parts.” He had to revisit His experience as a child, because no one saw Everything Everywhere and he was still rejected, even at

. We like to pat ourselves on the back and say how great this is a redemption story, but it’s also an indictment of our industry. If the movie didn’t work out, Ko would still go through the same rejections and the same typecasting. I hope other actors don’t have to go through what he went through.

Michelle Yeoh had a long and successful career, but Everything Everywhere gave She was nominated for an Oscar for the first time.

This is insane and I want people to know: We’re the first American movie to have her in the call list on the first place. So, again, it’s beautiful — “Wow, look at us. We did it!” But it’s also an indictment of what took her so long, and it’s the first time an Asian has been nominated for [Best Actress] . I think we have to accept both sides of these coins while also celebrating with a little bit of mourning. It would be one thing if they didn’t deliver amazing performances, but they are so talented. This is the kind of movie we need. It’s a movie where people see themselves in movies, and I hope that’s the future.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

A version of this story first appeared in the February stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe .

2021

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