Scheinert: There is one actor who didn’t want to do what was in the script, which was James Hong.
Kwan: Oh yeah.
Also a legend.
Kwan: Also a legend.
Scheinert: Yeah. He did not like how much his character was supposed to sleep in the movie. He would always be like, “No, no, my character would be awake.” And he’d have suggestions — he just always wanted to be having fun and contributing, even though originally in the script, the grandpa just keeps falling asleep during important stuff. But that is not James’s vibe. He was like –
Kwan: He fought back, and I’m glad he did. It was good.
Scheinert: Yeah. He’s great.
So coming out of “Swiss Army Man” and making an explosive mark, as you did, with this film, I know you would end up turning down “Loki,” which is also a multiversal adventure, to make this film. But how did the idea for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” come about, and kind of separately end up also being a multiversal thing, apart from “Loki?”
Scheinert: Yeah. I mean, I think in some ways, people asked us when we made “Swiss Army Man,” “Oooh, you’re going to do your big leap into Hollywood.” And it made our brains think, “What would our movie be, if we were going to do a big Hollywood movie?” And then this is what we wrote.
Kwan: Yeah, this is like, we were talking about, “Oh, this is probably the closest thing we’ll get to doing a blockbuster.”
Scheinert: Yeah. Like this is our version of a Marvel movie, which is like a lot. Very stupid, and very existential and philosophical, and also like…
Scheinert: Personal. And I’m kind of intimidated by IP, you know? Like even if it’s an article getting adapted, I’m like, “What about the real humans that this happened to?” That’s so much pressure. So we’ve always just naturally gravitated towards writing our own stuff.
So then, we just got lucky that we picked a multi- … like it was an accident. It was just in the cultural conversation and ethos, I guess. But back in 2016 we just started writing an Asian-American multiverse movie. Now there’s this explosion of multiverse films, and this explosion of Asian-American stories.
Kwan: Right. It goes back to me saying all of our scripts were like prayers, where maybe someone will let us make this. And slowly over the years, the world kind of shifted to a place where our movie is so obvious. But I remember the first time we met with Michelle, it was two weeks before “Crazy Rich Asians” had come out. So no one knew if it was going to do well, and for better or for worse, so much was riding on that box office for some reason.
Scheinert: We kept telling our producers, “Let’s book her right now, please.” And they were like, “Maybe we wait two weeks.”
Kwan: I was like, “Nno, no, no.” Yeah. But so she said, “It is very prescient of you guys, very brave of you guys.” We wrote this wild Asian-American movie before even “Crazy Rich Asians,” which is like a super-bankable version of an Asian-American movie, had proven itself.
So this was just stuff that we had been chewing on for a long time. If you look at our past work, we’ve dealt with multiverse stuff. You know, 10 years ago we were doing “Possibilia,” which was like an interactive, weird tech art piece about the decisions a couple who are breaking up have — it’s like a choose your own adventure that kind of implodes. And then “Interesting Ball” is kind of an exploration of infinity. So it’s always been in our mind, and we realized, “Oh, the multiverse could be a really cool place for our ideas to thrive.” It just so happened to time out this way, you know?