With all the excitement at the movies this year, it can be easy for some to forget that Harrison Ford, star of the Indiana Jones series, will soon be hanging up the hat and whip for the last time. With the release of the fifth and final outing for Ford scheduled soon for release, many are wondering what future, if any, there is for the series. Some have speculated that maybe his son from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, played by Shia Labeouf would take up the reins. Others have speculated that perhaps the role would, like James Bond before him, be re-cast with a different actor every few films. But there is one possibility, one that since the release of Everything, Everywhere, All At Once, seems like a pretty amazing option.
There are few series that became as instantly iconic as Indiana Jones. The brainchild of George Lucas and one of the signature works of Steven Spielberg, the original Raiders of the Lost Ark became a critical and box office darling when it was initially released. The massive hit would later spawn two sequels, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in 1984 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in 1989, making it one of the go-to destinations for action and adventure that decade. Following a long hiatus, a fourth film, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released in 2008 which, while not as revered as the original trilogy, it was nevertheless a hit at the box office. A fifth film is scheduled for release in 2023 from director James Mangold. So, what does this have to do with Everything, Everywhere, All At Once? A lot actually.
Everything, Everywhere, All At Once tells the story of a Chinese American woman named Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) who, while undergoing an audit from the IRS, is whisked away on a wild adventure where she realizes she holds the key to saving reality itself from complete annihilation. The film features quite an ensemble cast, including such industry veterans like James Hong and Jamie Lee Curtis, and up-and-coming talents like Stephanie Hsu. But there’s also a face some of you may not have recognized, being how he hasn’t been on film in almost twenty years. That actor is Ke Huy Quan, also known as Jonathan Ke Quan. In the film, Quan plays Evelyn’s plucky optimistic husband Waymond Wang. He also plays Wan Li, better known as Short Round, in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. For those who have seen Everything Everywhere All At Once, it is quite obvious that Quan now kicks all kinds of ass.
Ke Huy Quan and The Temple of Doom
Quan’s history with acting is a complicated and fascinating journey, filled with equal parts rousing success and bitter disappointment that eventually lead to a twenty-year hiatus from acting before his surprising return to the silver screen. That story begins during the casting of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, when producers were looking for an actor to play Indy’s plucky sidekick, Short Round. It was initially his brother who was being auditioned, but after producers became impressed with the younger Ke’s energy, Harrison ended up doing a reading with him instead and the budding actor was immediately cast. Fan reactions to the character were split between those who loved his resourcefulness and spirit and those who were wrong. Nevertheless, Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom was a rousing success, becoming a classic of the adventure genre and leading to many opportunities for Quan.
Ke Huy Quan and ‘The Goonies’
Impressed with his work on the previous film, Spielberg would later bring Ke Huy Quan into another of his projects, the Richard Donner directed adventure film The Goonies. Here, Quan had a memorable turn as Data, the technologically savvy/bumbling member of the pint-sized ensemble of adventurers which also included the likes of Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings), Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame) and Corey Feldman (Stand By Me). The Goonies similarly proved successful with both critics and audiences, and Quan became one of the most iconic child actors of the decade. One might think that with two mega-blockbusters under his belt, this would be the start of a bustling career in acting for Quan, but sadly, at the time, this is when opportunities started to dry up.
Jonathan Quan and Corey Yuen
Johnathan Quan made some appearances in television, including as a series regular on the 90s sitcom Head of Class, but nothing that would match the successes of Indiana Jones or the Goonies. Following frustrations in finding work, Quan decided at the time to retire from acting, pursuing a film degree from USC. This led to a second career for him as a fight choreographer. Having been trained in Taekwondo for Temple of Doom, Quan would go on to refine his skills, and eventually help orchestrate fight scenes in films like X-Men and The One alongside Corey Yuen. Quan and Yuen would work together for many years, leading to a second successful career for Quan. But what lead Quan back into acting?
Ke Huy Quan and ‘Everything, Everywhere, All At Once’
Quan was inspired by the success of the film Crazy Rich Asians. In recent years, there have been a lot more opportunities for Asian actors in mainstream Hollywood films, including several notable Oscar wins. It seemed the perfect time for Quan to once more step in front of the camera, leading to his turn as the many iterations of Waymond Wang in Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. This film provides an excellent case for Ke Huy Quan as Ford’s successor. Not only is he a pre-established character in the series, but in this film, Quan is able to show off his talents as a bona fide action heavyweight and serious actor.
In a film overflowing with stellar performances, Quan’s turn as an action star was, for this fan, an absolute joy. In one of the film’s most noteworthy sequences, Quan is shown fighting an army of IRS security guards armed only with a fanny pouch filled with gravel. In this scene, Quan absolutely destroys his attackers, and never once do we as an audience not buy it. Also, Quan plays several different versions of Waymond, including a melancholic businessman and struggling store owner along with a dimension-hopping ass-kicker, showing perhaps the widest range of acting Quan has ever put to film. There’s no mistaking it. Ke Huy Quan has always been a stellar talent. What would an entire action-adventure film starring this man be like? And since he already took part in arguably the greatest action-adventure film series in history, why not return to it?
Ke Huy Quan as the New Indiana Jones?
What would an Indiana Jones spinoff series featuring Wan ‘Short Round’ Li as the protagonist be like? It has been almost 40 years since the release of Temple of Doom, which took place in the mid-30s. So now, the series would of course be set in the mid-70s, with World War II as a fading memory and Vietnam and Watergate still fresh on the public’s mind. This is very fitting since recent film and television projects have seen an increase in 70s and 80s nostalgia.
I imagine Wan Li immigrating to the United States with Indy, where he would likely get a job at Marshal College where Doctor Jones works, paving the way for his own college career and perhaps a career as an archeologist just like his hero. And just like his hero, every so often there would come along a wild adventure that would require him to leave the classroom and enter the battlefield. As for Indy, while he may no longer be the leading man, he could easily show up as a supporting role, becoming to Wan Li what Marcus Brody had been to him. Would Wan Li end up donning the famous hat and whip, or would he find gear more personal to him such as a gravel filled fanny pouch? Either way, I know I’d be first in line for a Wan Li adventure.
This idea has me a lot more excited than the upcoming fifth Indiana Jones film. That has nothing to do with my initial disappointment with Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, but from a realization I had a few years ago. All the great Indiana Jones movies were already made. The original trilogy stands as a trio of adventure masterworks that continue to thrill and excite audiences to this day, and to recapture that is next to impossible. Indiana Jones riding off into the sunset at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade felt like such a perfect ending, so why not let it be the ending for him? And better yet, why not let it be the beginning of a new series of adventure films that could stand on their own, and tell a story that’s just as fascinating as Quan’s life behind the scenes? One of Wan Li’s immortal phrases in Temple of Doom was “You listen to me, you’ll live longer.” If the series takes that advice, it just might.
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