NEW YORK — They imagined a universe of hot dog fingers, rocks with googly eyes and “Raccaccoonie.” But neither Daniel Kwan nor Daniel Scheinert, in this world or any other, imagined the kind of runaway success “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was on the Oscar track.
Over the past year, since “Everything Everywhere All at Once” debuted at SXSW, the filmmaking duo known as the Daniels have been living in what has sometimes felt like a parallel dimension to them. They never expected their madcap multiple story to take them to the Oscars. Still, sometimes, they don’t believe it.
“It feels like we’re in a movie sometimes,” says Scheinert. “At some point we’re going to get out of this joke and be back in our own lives and be like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be cool? Too brown.'”
However, “Everywhere Everywhere All At Once” has emerged as the most likely Academy Awards heavyweight. The absurd indie that pairs existentialism and everything bagels, which was released way back in March of last year, is not just heading for some possible wins at the Oscars on March 12. It’s about to steamroll.
The favorite to win best picture, best director, best actress for Michelle Yeoh, best supporting actor for Ke Huy Quan and best supporting actor for Jamie Lee Curtis. A film with fanny-styled kung fu about a middle-aged woman filing her taxes is on the way to the best blockbusters of both (“Top Gun: Maverick”) and Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”).
If “Everywhere Anywhere at the Same Time” – nominated for 11 prestigious Oscars and already a winner with the anticipated producers, actors and directors guilds – wins best picture, it will be on one of the most anti-Oscar bait winners ever. Among other historic things, it will surely become the first best picture winner to prominently feature bump plugs.
“In defense of kink-positive people, you can put almost anything up your butt,” says Scheinert, laughing. “So, in a way, every single Oscar movie has an original plug. You just have to be creative.”
Being creative has been part of the Daniels way since they first met while studying film at Emerson College in Boston. Kwan, originally from Massachusetts, and Scheinert, from Alabama, started making music videos and shorts. Daniel Radcliffe starred in his first feature film, “Swiss Army Man” in 2016 as a body that would shoot a match. Their second feature is only “Everywhere Present”. The Daniels are 35 each.
The unexpected success – the release of A24 has grossed more than $100 million worldwide against a budget of $14.3 million – has ended the way the Daniels imagined they could go. In a rare recent lull between award ceremonies, they spoke to Zoom from Kwan’s home office. He apologized for the mess, a disorder that reminded him of his film.
“I keep saying I’ll do it when the film is being promoted,” says Kwan, almost a year after it opened.
However many Oscars “Everything Everywhere All at Once” ultimately won – it won’t be a bagel – it’s clear to Kwan that nothing will ever be the same after his unexpected lurch onto the biggest stage Hollywood.
“I’ve gone through so many cycles of euphoria and depression and manic episodes,” says Kwan, a sweet introspective soul. “I realized I’m never going to go back to my old jump. That hit me at one of my lowest points and I had to cry my life out. That can be incredible and sad at the same time.”
When “Everything Everywhere All at Once” landed in theaters, it galvanized the specialty film business after two years of pandemonium, driving moviegoers back to art houses and becoming the biggest box office smash of the A24. But even then, there was more talk of awards. It wasn’t until the fall, when it won best film at the Gotham Awards, that the buzz started to emerge. Love for the film just keep building. Proved wrong early on that the film was too weird for older academy voters.
Scheinert wisely recalls telling the cast and crew: “We’re not making an Oscar movie here. This film is about quantity, not quality.” And yet, in a twist of fate, a film has been made without any thought of the Academy Awards to lead them.
“The industry in general is going through a lot of soul searching,” says Kwan. “What happened with theater during the pandemic, what is happening now with streaming, OscarsSoWhite was the reason to change the composition of the academy. We’re in such flux that I think this weird movie has a chord somehow.”
“We think this film reflects what reality feels like, at least to us,” says Kwan. “It’s a real affirmation that people are responding to it: Oh, you see what I see.”
At a time when the main Hollywood studio product consists of franchises, remakes and sequels, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is also a film full of originality. (This is the first Oscar sequel year two, “Maverick” and “Avatar: The Waterway,” nominated for the best picture.) Vote on “Everywhere at Once” vote for something different.
“There is something very important about stretching your own imagination in your everyday life. We create these stories about ourselves and then accidentally get caught up in them often,” says Kwan. “I grew up with a lot of self-doubt and self-loathing. some success is just a far-fetched, stretch-of-the-imagination idea that I wouldn’t have been able to imagine a few years ago.”
To Scheinert, the film’s “secret weapon” is its projection. Even if the film is not to your taste, he says, “You can not hate Ke and Michelle.” Yeoh, one of the powerhouses of martial arts on the big screen, has said during the awards season that “Everything Everywhere All at Once” opened a new door for her as an actress. struggle, said that Oscar was not his goal. He wanted a job.
“If our film can detype people and detype the community, that’s pretty dope,” says Scheinert.
On the phone the morning of the Oscar nominations, Yeoh said that she never imagined, when they started making “Anything Anytime”, that they would be destined for the Academy Awards.
“We’re a tiny film with a big, beating heart, no doubt,” Yeoh said. “We had ambitions because we felt that all we had to do was tell our story. In a time of chaos and turmoil, this is a film about healing. It’s about love. It’s about an ordinary person — and all of us — who got the chance to be a superhero with superpowers that are love and compassion.”
On stage after stage, the Daniels, Yeoh, Quan and many others have brought the house down with rousing speeches about Asian representation. At the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, Quan said: “To everyone at home who is watching, struggling and waiting to be seen, please keep going because the spotlight will find you one day.” Ninety-four-year-old James Hong, the film’s crotchety patriarch, spoke at the SAGs about Hollywood’s terrible history of portraying Asian and Asian-American life.
“Everything Is Coded Every Time,” an antic metaphor for the Asian-American immigrant experience, has made its case for another movie universe, one where the heroes are like Yeoh’s Evelyn Quan Wang or Quan’s Waymond Wang.
“If I had grown up with a movie like this or this conversation going on, I would have been a very different person and a very different kind of American,” says Kwan. “Most of my life, the Asian part of my experience was something to erase or something to ignore because it felt more like a liability than a strength.”
So the lives behind “Everything Everywhere All at Once” have many alternate realities — mostly less joyful ones where this movie doesn’t exist for them, or anyone else.
Rewind a year and a day since the Oscars on March 12 and the Daniels and company were standing on the SXSW stage in Austin, Texas, with no idea of what was to come. When a member of the audience asked what was left on the cutting room floor, Scheinert suggested with utter regret another round: Spaghetti Baby Noodle Boy, with a talking macaroni who doesn’t understand why it’s not spaghetti, expressed by Jenny Slate.
Another road not taken, yes. But as Scheinert noted, there’s always the DVD.
Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP
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