James Hong has been working in Hollywood for nearly 70 years, but the 93-year-old actor has enjoyed a new level of visibility this year following his appearance in Everything Everywhere All At Once. The Daniels’ eye-popping follow-up to Swiss Army Man stars Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn Wang, an ordinary woman who becomes tasked with saving the multiverse. With its blend of sci-fi spectacle and heartwarming story, the film broke brains and A24's previous record at the box office upon its release this spring. One person who found the timeline-hopping story a bit challenging to follow was Hong, who plays Evelyn’s father.
“That came to me, and I said, ‘Boy, this is some project,’” the veteran actor says in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “Although I must admit to you, upon reading the script, I couldn’t understand it.”
This is a movie that involves Harry Shum Jr. running around with an animatronic raccoon on his head as a Ratatouille spoof, so hey, it’s understandable–and kind of refreshing that there’s still room to surprise Hong, given that he’s logged over 700 acting credits. Everything Everywhere All At Once also marked another novel experience for the actor with its impact on Asian American representation in Hollywood, which has significantly improved since he began performing in the ’50s, to say the least.
“The innovators, the creators—like Daniel Dae Kim, Janet Yang, Ang Lee—will drive this forward,” Hong says. “My efforts, like starting [the Asian American theater group] East West Players, will be carried on by these new people. When I was a kid, [1937’s] The Good Earth was played by Caucasian leads that taped their eyes up. [My career’s] been 70 years. I won’t live another 70, but you can’t stop artistry. Artistry will always find its way.”
In the same interview, Hong looks back on playing a variety of supporting characters in the ’70s TV show Kung Fu, which overlooked Bruce Lee for its lead role in favor of David Carradine. In 2021, the martial arts series was reimagined for the CW and now centers on a Chinese-American family in San Francisco. Hong shows no signs of slowing down, so maybe there’s room for him to appear on the reboot.
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