“My journey started on a boat” said Ke Huy Quan as he accepted his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor at the 95th Academy Awards this month.
Quan fled from Vietnam as a child, after his parents made the decision to seek a better life in America after the Vietnam War. Quan, separated from his mother and three of his siblings, spent a year in a refugee camp in Hong Kong, with his father and five other siblings. It was in 1979 that Quan finally made it into America.
Quan broke onto the Hollywood scene with roles as a young boy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Goonies. However, this appeared to be the peak of his career on the silver screen, as he struggled to find acting jobs as an adult. His big break came after a two decade hiatus when he auditioned and secured a role in Everything Everywhere All at Once, which subsequently earned him the Oscar. Quan credits much of his success to his mother, who sacrificed a “great life” in Vietnam for the sake of her nine children.
As a child actor in the US, Quan’s status as an ‘other’ was apparent as he Americanised his name to ‘Jonathan’ in order to fit in. It is powerful to see him recognised today by his real name. Coming from a refugee background, Quan always had the odds stacked against him. But his refusal to give up, his talent and his magnetic charm propelled him to become the first person of Vietnamese origin to win an Oscar. The heart that Quan demonstrated in his touching acceptance speech is a breath of fresh air in a time of global tension.
"They say stories like this only happen in the movies. I cannot believe it's happening to me.”
- Ke Huy Quan, March 2023