‘Everything Everywhere’s Dan Kwan & Jonathan Wang On Meeting Moment Of “Mental Health Crisis” With “A Shotgun Blast Of Joy And Absurdity And Creativity” – Oscars Backstage
In an appearance backstage at the Oscars following seven wins for Everything Everywhere All at Once — the most in a year for any title since 2013’s Gravity — filmmaker Dan Kwan and producer Jonathan Wang spoke about their drive to use the explosively joyful feature to address some of the more dark and difficult aspects of life.
The question was directed to the pic’s writer, director and producer Kwan, with reference to mention he’d made on stage earlier in the night of his struggles with insecurities and mental health issues. “I think we’re in a mental health crisis right now,” observed the creative. “Especially the younger generation, they don’t have much to look forward to. When you talk to students these days, there’s a bleakness that kind of is all-pervasive.”
Kwan went on to say that while he himself had “a lot of dark times” in his own youth, “one of the best superpowers” he’s had in dealing with his personal challenges is the ability “to talk” about his experiences through his art. “I think the radical transformative power of joy and absurdity and chasing your bliss is something that I want to bring to people who are like me when I was that age,” said the filmmaker. “This movie is a shotgun blast of joy and absurdity and creativity. And I really hope that the next generation can watch a movie like ours and just be like, ‘Oh.’ Because there is another way to look at the bleakness, and another way to face it head on.”
Producer Wang subsequently spoke about the responsibility that filmmakers and members of the media share, in terms of acknowledging the power that comes with their platform, and the kind of impact their work has on others. “I think that…all [of us] in this room, we do a job that drives eyes to a thing,” reflected the producer. “We pull people’s attention, and sometimes we do it nefariously, and that leads to problems with mental health. And sometimes we do it with beauty, and want to instill a certain light, and we’re drawing people towards a light.
“We have committed our lives to make movies that are good, that will ultimately lead to something good,” continued Wang, “and [aren’t] just something that will lead to attention, that will then lead to downstream consequences.”
Everything Everywhere tonight won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor and Editing, with Kwan and Scheinert sharing the first three. The first title world premiering at SXSW to win Best Picture tells the story of Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), an aging Chinese immigrant who, amidst an IRS audit, finds herself swept up in an insane adventure through the multiverse, in which she alone can save the world by exploring other universes connecting with the lives she could have led.
Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr. and James Hong also star in the pic, which is A24’s highest-grossing to date at a worldwide take exceeding $106M. Kwan and Scheinert directed from their script and produced alongside Joe Russo, Anthony Russo, Mike Larocca and Wang.