Hollywood, United States: From Oscar favorites “All At Once” and “RRR” to four acting nominations, Asian representation in Hollywood has made a remarkable and overdue breakthrough this year, industry experts say.
Among the many records set to fall this awards season, Malaysian “Everything” star Michelle Yeoh is the second best Asian actress nominee in the Oscars’ 95-year history, and has a strong chance of becoming the first winner on Sunday.
Only four Asian actors have won Oscars. That’s the same number as those featured this year alone, including Yeoh’s co-stars Ke Hui Kuan and Stephanie Hsu and Hong Chau from The Whale.
Then there’s Bollywood’s all-singing, all-dancing “RRR” winning Best Original Song and Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s nominated screenplay for “Living Life.”
Behind the camera are Asian director Daniel Kwan and Asian producer Jonathan Wang of the $100 million-grossing “Anything Matters” with 11 Oscar nominations.
“There’s something really beautiful about being able to show that if you put people in these roles, people will see it,” Wang told AFP.
“Why do only white characters go on fun adventures while Asian and black characters and Latino characters have to suffer?
“It’s time to go through with it. People run to the cash register.”
All this is far from Hollywood’s past.
At the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards, 94-year-old James Hong, who starred in the movie Everything, reflected on how white actors were once “eyeballed” by producers because they thought they were “Asian.” not good enough and they’re not box office.”
“But look at us now,” he said to great applause.
– ‘Long overdue’ –
In 1965, Hong co-founded the East West Players, a Los Angeles theater group formed to raise the visibility of Asian American actors and issues.
According to artistic director Snehal Desai, the company received a variety of Oscar nominations this year.
“These are artists who have been doing this work for decades. It’s nice to be seen and recognized, but it really shouldn’t have taken this long,” he said.
Born in Vietnam, Quan, a leading child star in the 1980s films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies, turned away from acting for decades due to a lack of roles.
“Quan’s story about his long absence from the industry resonates for our community as we continue to fight for more opportunities and quality representation,” the group said in a statement.
Christina Wong, an actor and comedian currently performing in a one-woman show co-produced by East West Players, said she was motivated to write her own pieces because it was the only way to see “weird” stories about immigrants.
“Either that, or sit down and listen to the chewing gum commercials,” he told AFP.
“I made this life. This is very unpleasant. It doesn’t end with creativity.”
There is still a “total lack of capacity,” Wong said.
But with the Pulitzer drama finalist Christina Wong, Sweatshop Owner and the award-winning and box office hit Everything, I think we’re ready for new stories, she said.
“We’ve seen the old tired stories of the white guy character saying, ‘I’m going to fix this with a gun.'”
“It really excited me, and I thought maybe there was an audience.” (AFP)