When Harrison Ford met Ke Huy Quan
The emotional moment when Harrison Ford met Ke Huy Quan for a joyful reunion at the 2023 Academy Awards ceremony touched viewers all over the world.
The stars of the iconic Indiana Jones film franchise hugged warmly, after Quan received the Best Supporting Actor award for his role in the comedy sci-fi adventure, Everything Everywhere All at Once, which won seven Oscars.
Their unscripted, spontaneous delight almost broke the internet, with the video receiving more than 1.5 million views on YouTube within hours of being posted!
Quan stars as Waymond Wang, the meek and mild-mannered husband of laundromat owner Evelyn Wang, in the epic adventure. He also plays several different versions of Wang in alternate universes, as his wife is plunged into a desperate battle to save the entire multiverse from devastation.
The world’s media captured Ford’s emotional reunion with Quan at the Oscars – 39 years after they first met on the set of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984.
How did Harrison Ford first meet Ke Huy Quan?
Ford was in his prime as a Hollywood leading man when he starred as the swashbuckling adventurer in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He had already set our screens alight in 1981 in the first Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Aged 42, Ford appeared in the sequel three years later, when he met 12-year-old Vietnamese actor Ke Huy Quan, who was making his big-screen debut. Quan had won the role of Jones’ sidekick, Short Round, after beating off stiff competition from 6,000 child actors from all over the world.
Ford was already a veteran of several cult sci-fi movies including Star Wars, in which he famously starred as Han Solo; and Blade Runner.
The Indiana Jones film series was hugely successful, with Temple of Doom raking in $333.1 million at the worldwide box office, after being made for a relatively modest $28.17 million.
How did their relationship evolve?
Although Ford and Quan had a close working relationship in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, their respective careers sent them on different paths.
Director Steven Spielberg reportedly felt Quan was ideal for the role of the streetwise kid. He set up an improvisation session with Ford and Quan, when they were playing cards in character. Short Round accused Jones of cheating, creating a moment of movie magic when the two characters clicked. Spielberg was so impressed that he put the scene in the finished movie, when they played around the campfire.
In an interview with The Guardian, Quan described filming Temple of Doom as “one of the happiest times” of his life. In their free time during filming, Ford saw Quan splashing around in the hotel pool and realised he couldn’t swim. The star taught his young sidekick how to swim. Quan later told the press: “That’s how we bonded.”
Career behind the scenes
The movie launched Quan’s career and he went on to star in the classic coming-of-age film, The Goonies, in 1985, followed by leading roles in TV series such as Together We Stand and Head of the Class. He studied Taekwondo with Philip Tan for his role as Short Round and later trained seriously in martial arts under Tao-liang Tan, the renowned martial arts expert and movie actor.
While Ford went on to forge a globally successful movie career, Quan opted out of acting as an adult to further his education. He enrolled in a film programme at the University of Southern California.
After graduation, he went to Toronto, Ontario, where his martial arts training led to his employment as a fight scene choreographer in X-Men in 2000. He worked behind-the-scenes in films, in both the US and Asia, for more than ten years.
Quan’s return to acting
At the age of 47, Quan was inspired to return to acting by the 2018 rom-com, Crazy Rich Asians. Later that year, casting began for Everything Everywhere All At Once. While looking for an actor to play Waymond Wang, the director found Quan’s Twitter account.
Quan received a call inviting him to audition and it was announced he had been awarded the role in January 2020.
When the film was released in 2022, Quan won unanimous praise from the critics and public alike. Prior to his Academy Award, he had already won a Screen Actors Guild Award for the role.
Ford and Quan’s paths hadn’t crossed since the days of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – until their chance meeting in September 2022 at Disney’s D23 Expo at Anaheim Convention Centre in California.
Quan, now 51, said in an interview his “heart was pounding” when he spotted Ford, 80, at the event. He admitted to wondering, “Is he gonna recognise me?” He said he was just a “little kid” last time he saw his co-star.
Approaching Ford, Quan feared he would be mistaken for an over-zealous fan, joking, “He’s gonna tell me not to come near him!” However, Ford immediately pointed to Quan when he saw him and said, “Are you Short Round?” Quan added, “Immediately, I was transported back to 1984,” as I replied, “Yes, Indy!”
Ford called him over and gave him a big hug. The years melted away and it was hard to believe they hadn’t seen each other for 38 years.
Their private meeting at the D23 Expo pre-empted Ford and Quan’s emotional public reunion on stage at the Academy Awards at the Hollywood and Highland Centre in Los Angeles.
The pair hugged on stage at the Oscars, when Ford presented Everything Everywhere All At Once with the Best Picture award. Social media users were enthralled by the special moment and the heartfelt hug was soon trending all over the world.
During his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor earlier in the evening, Quan thanked his mother, 84, a former seamstress, for always supporting him. He told the audience how he started his journey on a boat from Vietnam to Hong Kong as a refugee, spending 12 months in a refugee camp.
His family entered the US in 1979 as part of the Refugee Admissions Programme. Just five years later, he was starring in one of the biggest box office hits of all time. A memorable meeting can change your career and even your life – the ripples can sometime be felt decades later!
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