The night before winning 11 premier Oscar nominations, including best picture, best director and three out of four record-breaking nominations for actor of Asian descent, the cast and crew of Everything Everywhere All at Once gathered for dinner at the Monterey Park.
The celebration of her unlikely trip to the Academy Awards had been planned for weeks. Then Saturday’s mass shooting, which left 11 dead and nine others injured, shook the predominantly Asian enclave and the AAPI community at large, casting a shadow over an otherwise hopeful Lunar New Year holiday.
Shocked and devastated, the “EEAAO” crew decided to proceed with dinner at Atlantic Seafood and Dim Sum Monday night to support and lift up a community still rocked by the tragedy.
When her group arrived, actor Ke Huy Quan was sad to find the area and its shops relatively empty. “We started the night by acknowledging what happened,” said Quan, who received his first Oscar nomination on Tuesday for his role as the radically kindhearted Waymond Wang. “We had a minute’s silence for the victims. We just wanted to show Monterey Park that we love them.”
The film, which was also nominated for Screenplay, Score, Song, Costume Design and Editing, is the rare contender for an award made by and centered on Asian Americans. Filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert are nominated for Best Picture (with producer Jonathan Wang), Original Screenplay and Direction.
Oscar nominee Michelle Yeoh leads the sci-fi action ensemble as Evelyn Wang, a haunted Chinese-American laundromat owner who learns she has the power to traverse the multiverse — and the only one with it before destruction can save.
“Last weekend was really, really tough,” Yeoh told the Times, calling from London, where she is reuniting with Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu in a theatrical adaptation of Wicked. “Our hearts go out to the victims and their families at Monterey Park. It’s heartbreaking. In the future we must help each other to heal.”
It’s the first Oscar nomination for the Malaysian-born actress, who has received numerous accolades for her portrayal of a working-class mother and wife who opens up endless possibilities in her alternative life in EEAAO.
Notably, the role is one of the few leading Hollywood roles written for an Asian woman. If Yeoh wins, she will make history as the Academy’s first-ever winner for Best Asian Actress. Yeoh accepted the Golden Globe earlier this month, thanking Kwan and Scheinert “for having the courage to write about a very ordinary immigrant, an aging woman, mother, daughter.”
Yeoh, who began her career in Hong Kong, has spent time in the San Gabriel Valley while filming her most recent projects in Los Angeles. After watching the nominations live via Zoom with her “EEAAO” family on Tuesday morning with her “EEAAO” family, she expressed hope that the film’s message about healing between generations will be a “beacon”.
“We need to hold hands, hold each other and have hope in our hearts that we can step forward and make things better,” she said. “Hopefully this will be a little beacon that we can hug together and say, ‘Let’s lift each other out of this sorrow and sadness.’ We must initiate hope, love and forgiveness.”
Hsu, who earned her first supporting actress nomination for dual roles alongside Jamie Lee Curtis, as Evelyn’s daughter Joy and her almighty alter ego Jobu Tupaki, was born and raised in Torrance. When news of the Lunar New Year tragedy broke, she was far from home in Sydney, Australia, feeling “helpless and hopeless and angry”.
Growing up, “every other weekend we would go to Monterey Park to buy groceries,” she said on the phone. “I was wondering what would make me feel better now? How can I mourn – and also what can bring me out of it?”
She found solace in rewatching “EEAAO” over the weekend and flying back to Los Angeles, where she landed Tuesday morning shortly after the nominations were announced. “I wanted to see the Chinese New Year. I wanted to remind people that this film is about kindness and love,” Hsu said. “I wanted a dose of that.”
Former child star Quan, who made comeback of the year with his beloved performance on All At Once, also has personal ties to Monterey Park that left him sad over the weekend. He and Hong Chau from “The Whale” are the first actors of Vietnamese descent to win Oscars for acting.
“I lived and grew up there for many, many years,” Quan said of Monterey Park, where 65% of residents identify as Asian, according to US census data. “It’s a place I’ve called home for a long time. I know the neighborhood well. I know the people, the community. I know many shops. And I struggled.”
When the news broke on Sunday, Quan was glued to the television. “I can’t even remember how much I cried,” he said. “But then I realized that we can’t cancel. This is not the time to steer clear of Monterey Park. Instead, we should go there and support them and show them our love. Local businesses need us.”
He urged people to come forward for the people of Monterey Park and its local businesses who need revenue during the festive Lunar New Year holiday.
“It was so sad when we saw that the streets were empty. We went into the restaurant and it was empty,” he said. “I’m so glad we left. We didn’t shy away from it. We haven’t cancelled. We went there, we showed them our love, we supported the business and I think that’s what people should do. I hope so.”
If you are interested in making a donation, visit the Sacrifice Fund established by Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California and other organizations.