Everything Everywhere All at Once was the break-out independent film of 2022, a wild, hilarious hit about a dissatisfied Chinese-American couple (played by Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan) who run a laundromat and their put-upon daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu). When the couple have their business audited by difficult IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Jamie Lee Curtis), they stumble into a world of parallel universes and increasingly outlandish adventure.
Written and directed by filmmaking duo Daniels (that’s Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert to you), the endlessly inventive comedy also tops our annual Films Of The Year list (voted for by Team NME) – beating out big-budget blockbusters such as Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. We caught up with them on Zoom to deliver the good news…
Hey guys, you’ve come top of our Films Of The Year list! What’s your reaction?
Daniel Kwan: “It’s been a really good year for film, especially after the past few years where the pandemic made people funny about releases. We’ve been watching so many movies that we’ve fallen in love with, for so many different reasons. The fact people are putting us near the top of that list is so flattering. We might disagree with you, but it’s okay. We’re very grateful. Thank you. I can’t believe we got number one!”
Have you received much feedback about the film this year?
Daniel Scheinert: “Totally. So many people at Halloween would send us text messages, like, ‘I’m at a party, someone’s dressed up like your movie’ and text us photos of strangers who had dressed up.”
DK: “That’s a great measure of success: how many people went to Halloween dressed up as one of your characters? Sometimes people will tell us the stories of what happened after they left the theatre. ‘Oh, I was with my mum. And then on the drive home, we had an important conversation that we’d been needing to have for years’. Stuff like that knocks you back as a filmmaker, you really know there’s some power and worth to these stories. But then you also hear about people being like, “Oh, man, once the dildos came out, I saw three couples stand up [to leave].”
Why do you think the film has struck a nerve with people?
DS: “I think because, at its core, it’s about being overwhelmed and struggling to connect and communicate. We all just lived through this pandemic that made us all very overwhelmed, made it very hard to connect and communicate. We’re just so lucky that we made a piece of artwork people were in the mood for.
“I have one more answer. I think the movie is successful because it’s impossible to hate Ke Huy Quan or Michelle Yeoh. You can’t shit-talk the movie because you look like a real jerk – Ke and Michelle are just so good and sweet in it. I feel like they’re the secret weapon.”
Ke Huy Quan was best known for The Goonies and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. Now he’s enjoying a renaissance thanks to your film…
DK: “One of the best decisions we made was casting Ke. He was perfect for the role, but it was also impossible to feel stressed out or angry around him – he was so happy to be on-set again. He was clearly nervous because it was the first time he had acted in a few decades. But then Jamie Lee Curtis came up to him at the end of the day and that gave him the energy to move through the rest of the shoot.”
How did you get Jamie Lee Curtis on board?
Daniel Kwan: “The secret to getting Jamie Lee Curtis is making sure that you’re making a movie with Michelle Yeoh. I don’t think she [even] had to read the script… She’s very curious, very playful. Everything she does, there’s no strategy behind it beyond what she feels is important in that moment. I think it was really important for Michelle to have an equal, you know, an equally iconic person.”
What can you tell us about your famous fans?
DS: “We heard that Barack Obama saw it but he hasn’t called me. Like, ‘come on, Barack. What are you doing?’“
DK: “We got the chance to spend more time with [Knives Out director] Rian Johnson, who was one of the first people to email us after the movie came out. That was amazing because Rian’s first movie, [2005 crime drama] Brick, was one of the first times I saw a film and thought that maybe I could be a filmmaker, just because he made it for $500,000 on his own.”
DS: “We also met Questlove and he said he’s been watching the movie over and over all year and buying it and sending it to his friends. He was like, “I probably bought 100 copies of your movie, to send to people to force them to watch.” It was mind-blowing.”