The tears began before Everything Everywhere All at Once's first win of the night. Less than 30 minutes into Sunday's 95th Oscars, reigning Best Supporting Actress Ariana DeBose opened the envelope and stifled back a sob as she announced Ke Huy Quan as the winner of Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
"My mom is 84 years old. She is at home watching. Mom, I just won an Oscar!" a bleary eyed but joyous Quan said onstage as he clutched his statuette. "My journey started on a boat. I spent year in a refugee camp, and somehow, I ended up here on Hollywood's biggest stage. They say, 'Stories like this only happen in the movies.' I cannot believe it's happening to me."
Everything Everywhere All at Once would go on to win seven Oscars in total, including all three acting categories in which it was nominated: Michelle Yeoh won Best Actress, Jamie Lee Curtis won Best Supporting Actress, and Quan, of course, won Best Supporting Actor. It is only the third film in Oscars' history to do so, after A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and Network (1976). (A24, meanwhile, made history as the studio to sweep all of the acting categories, with Brendan Fraser also taking home Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Whale.)
In the final moments of the ceremony, the sci-fi magnum opus from directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert — in which a Chinese American immigrant and laundromat owner becomes the savior of the multiverse — was named as this year's Best Picture winner, capping off a fittingly emotional, epic, and historic evening.
"I had a lot of dark times, and I think the radical, transformative power of joy and absurdity and chasing your bliss is something that I want to bring to people," Kwan said backstage following the win. "This movie, it's a shotgun blast of joy and absurdity and creativity."
"There's one thing that I would like to add," producer Jonathan Wang chimed in. "It's just that the movie, the reason why we ended up making it was because we wanted to be able to end up in a warm embrace at the end of it, even though it was all about chaos."
Moments after Quan's Oscar win, Curtis was onstage to deliver her own acceptance speech, an eruption of gratitude in which she shared her Oscar win with her Everything Everywhere collaborators ("We just won an Oscar"), her family ("We just won an Oscar"), and her fans. ("We just won an Oscar. Together.") She concluded her speech saying, "My mother and my father were both nominated for Oscars in different categories — I just won an Oscar."
"Everyone," she announced herself as she entered the winners' room with her Oscar in hand, "the apparent Oscar winner Jamie Lee Curtis is entering the room."
For those unaware of her movie star pedigree, Curtis is the youngest daughter of Tony Curtis (who earned a Best Actor nomination for 1958's The Defiant Ones) and Janet Leigh (a fellow Best Supporting Actress nominee for 1960's Psycho). When asked what her parents would make of Curtis becoming an Oscar winner, she said, "Let me just be honest. I don't believe in a world where there are a bunch of people looking down on us. I think we are them in our actions, and in our deeds, and in our ideas, and then we build our own and we give them to our children and that's how the world goes on. So, I am a product of them and I am a proud product of them. And I know they would be incredibly proud of me, of course."
While the first half of the telecast was highlighted by Quan and Curtis' his and hers Oscar wins, as well as a vibrant performance of the film's nominated original song by Stephanie Hsu (herself a nominee for Best Supporting Actress), Son Lux, and a hot dog-fingered David Byrne, the back half of the telecast saw successive wins for Everything Everywhere in Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Directing, Best Actress, and Best Picture.
Backstage, Paul Rogers, a longtime collaborator of the Daniels but only a second-time feature film editor, told A.frame of his win, "I hope it doesn't change me too much. I feel like I have a pretty healthy blend of, like, insecurity and confidence and a need to prove myself... And if I get out of whack, then I'm screwed. So, this is a really bad thing for me, and I need to be brought back down to Earth. Because the insecurity is, honestly, an important part of the way I work, which is the fear of failing my friends, my directors, the actors. I felt an enormous responsibility to Michelle and Ke, especially, because they had been kind of treated so wrong by all of us for so long. And I was so grateful to be given the responsibility of helping tell a part of their story."
Almost exactly a year to the day after Everything Everywhere All at Once debuted at South by Southwest, the film forever etched itself into cinematic history at the Oscars. Filmmakers who have previously won for directing, writing and picture in the same year include Bong Joon Ho, the Coen brothers, Francis Ford Coppola, and Billy Wilder, amongst a collective eight writer-directors who have achieved the feat. Now, the Daniels will always be amongst those names.
Yeoh, meanwhile, made history when she became the first Asian artist to win an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, the moment that perhaps earned the biggest ovation of the night both inside the Dolby Theater and throughout all of Ovation Hollywood. Halle Berry, who also made history when she won Best Actress for 2001's Monster's Ball, was on hand to present the award, and had tears on her face as she handed Yeoh her statuette. "For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities," Yeoh said. "This is proof that dreams — dream big — and dreams do come true."
"This is something that we have been working so hard towards for a very long time, and tonight we freaking broke that glass ceiling," she said backstage about making history. "We deserve to be heard; we deserve to be seen; we deserve to have the equal opportunity so we can have a seat at the table. That's all we are asking for. Give us that opportunity. Let us prove we are worth it."
If the whole evening felt meant to be, there is nobody for whom it felt more kismet than Quan. The actor was the last to arrive in the winners' room, sprinting in with his Oscar held aloft. The past few hours saw him win an Oscar alongside Brendan Fraser, with whom he'd co-starred in Encino Man more than 30 years ago. Everything Everywhere's Best Picture win was even presented by Harrison Ford, alongside whom Quan had made his film debut in 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. "And during one of the commercial breaks, I ran up to Steven Spielberg, and he gave he a big hug. He put his arms around me and he said, 'Ke, you are now an Oscar-winning actor!' Hearing him say that meant the world to me," Quan beamed.
"I didn't think any of this would be possible," he said, both hands clutched around his statuette. "Somebody asked me this earlier: Do I have anything planned? What am I doing next? I don't know what I'm doing next! First thing tomorrow morning, I'm going to call my agent, because I remember when I was struggling, I would call my agent — I try not to bother him too much — but I would call him once every three months, once every six months, and I would say, 'Hey, is there anything out there for me?'"
"And the answer would always be the same: 'Oh, I'm so sorry. There's nothing out there, but I'll continue to look.'" Quan broke into a smile as he excitedly hoisted his Oscar into the air, "So hopefully when I call my agent tomorrow, he will give me a different answer!"