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Ke Huy Quan on That Outrageous Fanny Pack Scene in Everything Everywhere All At Once

"You have to really step up your game and train really hard to do the fanny pack"

Ke Huy Quan Interview
Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24), photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images
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    Everything Everywhere All At Once star Ke Huy Quan seems like he’s living his best life right now; during a recent press day for the new A24 film, he’s downright giddy just to be talking to the press. “It’s been a really exciting time for me,” he says. “Ever since the trailer came out, and now the movie getting to come out the response, the reception has just been incredible. I’m so overwhelmed with joy right now. I’m really happy.”

    It’s a very human reaction that feels truly in line with the nature of the film, which is in a lot of ways about just what it means, to live a human life. Written and directed by the filmmaking team known as Daniels (Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert), Everything Everywhere stars the legendary Michelle Yeoh as Evelyn, whose humdrum life taking care of her family and struggling laundromat business gets completely upended when she learns about the existence of alternate universes — universes where alternate Evelyns have lived very, very different lives.

    While Quan famously played two iconic roles in the 1980s as a kid — Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’s Short Round and The Goonies’s Data — but moved away from acting after struggling to find any good roles that wouldn’t typecast him due to his ethnicity. But as Evelyn’s husband Waymond, at least in one universe, Quan got to play a wild range of Waymonds, and also lean on his decades of experience working in martial arts and stunts for some breathtaking sequences, including the soon-to-be-iconic “fanny pack scene.”

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    In the below interview, transcribed and edited for clarity, Quan goes into detail about how intense the fanny pack fight was to shoot, due to the level of difficulty as well as the shooting schedule. He also details why he doesn’t think he could have played the role of Waymond before now, and if he had a favorite variant of the Waymonds he played.


    I read the recent profile of you in Vulture before this interview, which was a lovely portrait that also answered my question about why you have a fight choreography credit on the first X-Men film.

    Yeah, when I had to make the difficult decision to step away from acting because of a lack of opportunities, that’s what I did. I love movies so much, and I love the process of making movies. So I enrolled myself in film school, and after graduating from it, one day I got a call from this amazing action choreographer named Corey Yuen in Hong Kong. And he called me, and he says, “Hey Ke, do you wanna come up to Toronto with me and work on a little movie?” It was right after graduation, and I didn’t know what it was. So I flew there, and I walked on the set and it was X-Men.

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    Corey kind of took me under his wing — I was his assistant action choreographer because of my martial arts background, I studied Tae Kwon Do for many years, and so to be able to do that with him and to learn from him, to have him mentor me in how to put an action sequence together and how to shoot it and how to look at it from different angles of it — it was incredible. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

    Years ago, I got to be on a set visit where I saw a fight scene being choreographed the Hong Kong way, where you create the choreography one step at a time as you shoot the film. It was really fascinating.

    It is. It’s a fascinating process. It’s something that needs to be done with a team of people, because you can’t tango by yourself, you know. Usually it involves a lot of men and women sitting around talking about the script, but it starts with throwing the first punch and the first kick.

    It’s a very time-consuming process, and it’s really unique in how it gets put together. We have some of the greatest sequences in this movie. Michelle has been doing this for so many years, and when you are in a movie with Michelle that has action sequences, ’cause she’s the queen of martial arts movies, you have to really step up your game and train really hard to do the fanny pack. I trained really hard, and, believe it or not, we did that sequence in one-and-a-half days — that’s what it was scheduled for, and that included all the dialogue leading up to it.

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    I remember the most difficult part of that sequence was when I took the fanny pack and I wrapped it around my neck, my shoulder, and then I kicked it. And you really have to kick it in a certain way for that fanny pack to fly towards camera. And it was important to the Daniels to do that in a wide-shot in one take, because the audience then can see that it’s actually me doing it.

    I trained really hard and I could never get it a hundred percent. Because it was such a tight schedule, I remember when it was time to do that particular shot, Dan Kwan came up to me and said, “Ke, I know you’ve done a lot of Hong Kong movies where you can do 20, 30, 40 takes to get it right. But I’m telling you right now, we’re not gonna have time for that. Because we have 70 more shots to do today.” And then the camera rolled on take one, they yell action. And it was a complete failure.

    I was really nervous — sweat was dripping down my forehead, and I looked over to the Daniels and I just see this face on them. And the face was like, oh my God, please. We just don’t have time for this. Take two: action. And I wrapped it around my neck, my shoulder, and I kicked it just perfectly. And the fanny pack flies toward the camera. And after they yelled cut, they were clapping so hard, I think it was one of the happiest moments in their lives. And it was mine too. We got it. So the one that you saw was take two, and that was all we did. We only did two takes.

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    everything everywhere ke huy quan 2 Ke Huy Quan on That Outrageous Fanny Pack Scene in Everything Everywhere All At Once

    Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

    For perspective’s sake — if you’d had the perfect amount of time to shoot that sequence, how many days would it have been?

    I’ve been on sets and shoots where it takes three weeks, four weeks. Sometimes five weeks. Let me give you an example, like X-Men for example. We were responsible for that Mystique and Wolverine fight at the very end. We had nine weeks to choreograph and to train the actors, and then I think we had maybe four or five days to shoot that sequence.

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    Hong Kong movies, when it’s an action film, they normally schedule a lot of time for the action sequence and less on the drama stuff, because that was their selling point. For us, when you’re on that tight of a schedule, and you really need to move on, there’s a certain energy to that.

    You know, it’s not perfect. It’s kind of raw. And I came to quite appreciate that. It shows up on the screen too. It’s very different, but I think it’s kind of cool. It depends, of course. If you have the luxury, if you have the budget, if you have the time — yeah, it’s great to do it until you get it perfectly. But this one, I’m really happy with the result.

    To take it back a little bit — when you first read the script, how much of the finished film do you feel was in that script?

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    Oh my God. You know, when we started production on this, we shot exactly the way the script was written. There were zero changes to the script. And we were scheduled for 38 days over an eight week period — and that’s how great the script is. They wrote it, and once when production began, we just shot and we shot everything in the script. There was nothing left out. It was a brilliantly written script.

    I remember when I first read it, I couldn’t believe that I can be a part of this. Not only was it a great story about an American family that are disconnected with each other and they have to journey into the multiverse to find themselves again, and whether it’s Evelyn or Joy or Waymond, they were really multilayered with a lot of nuance, which is something that is so rare, especially when I started in the business.

    I remember after Indiana Jones and Goonies, the roles that I was offered to go out and audition for were really stereotypical characters with a couple of lines that didn’t even have a character name. To go from that to where we are today, the progress that we have made in terms of Asian representation, I’m so optimistic, I’m so happy and hopeful and inspired. There’s a lot more work to be done, but honestly my return to acting is proof of how important it is for not just Asians, but all groups of people, to be represented in entertainment. And I’m really happy right now.

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    everything everywhere stephanie hsu michelle yeoh ke huy quan james hong Ke Huy Quan on That Outrageous Fanny Pack Scene in Everything Everywhere All At Once

    Everything Everywhere All At Once (A24)

    Something that struck me in watching the movie was that when you’re playing a character, you’re of course thinking about their backstory. But you actually got to shoot key moments of a lot of this character’s backstory for this film. Was that something that had an impact on you?

    Yeah. Honestly, had this role been offered to me 10 or 15 years ago, I don’t think I could have done it. When I was researching, I really tried to get into character for these three different versions of Waymond. I didn’t want it to be someone else’s version. I wanted to be entirely my own.

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    You know, I’m 51 years old, and I spend a lot of time just looking back at everything that’s happened in my life and really reaching deep inside of me to pull moments from my life and put it into these characters, whether it be CEO Waymond, or Waymond, or Alpha Waymond. I wanted to do them justice because of how great this character is and what Wayman represents, because he’s a man that truly believes in empathy and kindness and love for one another. So it was really important to put that on the screen.

    I remember that scene where Waymond gave that speech, you know, “can we please stop fighting?” and I was crying so hard where when that shot was over, I was still crying. And I remember Dan coming up to me and making a joke because he knew how miserable I was so into the character, so into the moment. And he made a joke and it brought me out of it, and it was great.

    This was after the shot was done, I think we did it in two takes. I was just crying uncontrollably and he was so kind. I was so involved, and they were already moving on to the next shot and I was hiding in the corner with tears still coming down my cheeks and he came over and comforted me.

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    That’s really lovely. I feel like the toughest thing about being an actor is learning how to process all the emotions you’re being asked to play.

    Yeah. I think every actor wants to have opportunities like this. To be able to go there emotionally and physically, and I got to do all of that in one movie. And not having done it for so long, 20 years to be exact, and to have this opportunity was just unbelievable.

    Did you have a favorite of the different facets of Waymond that you got to play?

    I loved every single one of them. I feel like I’ve made not one movie, but three movies, and each represents different things. For example, CEO Waymond, in that glamorous universe, where he is really successful. He has all the money in the world and Evelyn’s character is a big movie star. And yet they’re both not happy because they don’t have each other.

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    I will always have a soft spot for Waymond in the present universe, because of how kind and loving he is and how much he loves his family. I think what we’ve all gone through in the last two years… If we learn anything from it, I hope that all of us have empathy, because empathy creates a pathway to understanding and acceptance. I hope that’s what we take away from it.

    Everything Everywhere All At Once is available in theaters now.

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