Steven Yeun’s journey from aspiring improv comedian to leading “Minari,” the toast of this film awards season, began in earnest after some words of encouragement from a mysterious audience member he’d never seen before and has never seen since.
“I was in college, doing acting for fun,” he remembers. “This woman, she came to a staged reading and pulled me aside afterward and was like, ‘I really enjoyed your performance. I think you should pursue this. We are gonna need people like you.’ And I understood what she meant.”
Yeun took those magic words as permission to envision a Hollywood that tells true-to-life Asian American stories that feature more than a handful of people who look like him. The path to success in such an inherently image-based industry, however, was and still is far less clear for anyone outside its cookie-cutter (white, American, mostly male) status quo. “At the time, there was only John Cho in the main mainstream,” he points out. “He was the only one really doing comedy—him and Steve Park.”
If you know the identity of this “ominous woman,” as Yeun jokingly calls the audience member who spoke to him, please drop him a line. “She said these nice words to me, and it just kind of lit a fire. I was like, maybe John is now clearing a path for someone like me to exist.” [More at Source]
Many actors dread comparisons to James Dean, the movie icon who helped define a new type of on-screen masculinity. But Steven Yeun, the 36-year-old who rose to global recognition on the TV megahit “The Walking Dead,” is comfortable with the juxtaposition to Hollywood’s most famous rebel.
When Yeun was talking to director Lee Isaac Chung about starring in “Minari,” the winner of this year’s grand jury and audience prizes at Sundance, Dean’s brooding persona served as a useful template.
The men discussed their immigrant fathers and the way they left their homes to travel across the world, lured by the promise of the United States and the potential for reinvention. In the mid-1960s, Chung’s dad was living in South Korea and working in a factory. After watching two iconic Dean films, “Giant” and “East of Eden,” Chung says his father’s fate was sealed, and that “seeing the landscape and possibility of America just struck him.”
More than 50 years later, “Minari” will tell a pioneer story of a Korean immigrant family who travels to Arkansas in search of a farming business and manifest destiny. Yeun is an executive producer and the ensemble’s lead, and Chung’s very own version of Dean.
“I wanted it to be a throwback to those old classic frontier films about the American expanse. Steven in a way is meant to be that classic Hollywood star who is going out there and trying something new to make a living for himself and his family,” says Chung.
Yeun, a quiet and thoughtful father of two, made his name fighting zombies on the aforementioned AMC franchise for six years. After leaving the show in 2016, he boldly strayed from commercial fare and anything featuring hordes of the undead in a concerted effort to avoid the industry’s knack for typecasting.
“After I left, the things Hollywood would give back to me were more of the same. That’s obvious and happens to everybody, but I wanted to reject that. I wanted to see the other side, to understand who I was and what I wanted to say,” Yeun says.
Drawing on Chung’s early childhood memories, “Minari” serves as a culmination of the many left turns Yeun took once he left TV stardom and the halls of San Diego Comic-Con. Among his stops on the road less traveled were Joe Lynch’s horror film “Mayhem,” Bong Joon Ho’s Cannes player “Okja,” Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You” and Lee Chang Dong’s festival sensation “Burning,” a collection of bold performances that has turned Yeun into one of the most exciting and eclectic actors of his generation. [More at Source]
Steven had a small appearance in Netflix’s I Think You Should Leave with Tim Robinson first episode. I’ve updated the gallery with high quality screencaptures of Steven’s appearance during the episode.
I’ve updated the gallery with photos of Steven participating in the Live Read of “When Harry Met Sally” presented by Film Independent.
Steven walked the blue carpet of the 2019 Film independent Spirit Awards yesterday in Los Angeles, California. I’ve updated the gallery with photos of Steven during the event.
Steven’s mystery project from August turned out to be Jordan Peele’s Youtube Original Weird City. Steven guest starred on the 5th episode from the series titled “Chonathan & Mulia & Barsley & Phephanie”. I’ve updated the gallery with high quality screencaptures of the episode.
Steven attended earlier the 44th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards with his Burning director Lee Chang-dong.
Steven Yeun remembers exactly where he was on the night of June 15, 2004, after his beloved Detroit Pistons embarrassed the Los Angeles Lakers to win their first NBA title in 14 years:
“I was in college. It was my senior year, and we lit a couch on fire.”
This was at Kalamazoo College in his home state of Michigan, where he lived in a house with five guys on the basketball team. “That victory was strange because we won that shit in the third quarter,” explains Yeun. “And so then you’re just like celebrating but not, because it’s not done yet.” In his telling, when the final buzzer bzzzt’d and confetti ribbons squiggled down from the rafters, using a communal piece of furniture to start a bonfire seemed like a perfectly natural way to celebrate.
Now a decade and a half later, Yeun has an arson-adjacent film coming out this month called Burning, where he plays, for the first time in his career, a villain—a cultivated libertine named Ben who drives a Porsche and listens to jazz and cops to a secret love of setting old greenhouses ablaze. Directed by Lee Chang-dong, the film is in Korean and is loosely based on a short story by Japanese author Haruki Murakami. The film received a standing ovation at Cannes and similarly dazzled along the festival circuit—which is why we’re here, eating lunch at Scarr’s Pizza, a throwback slice joint hidden away on a sleepy block in Chinatown. (My first two restaurant suggestions—a nearby Taiwanese noodle spot and a Malaysian cafe—were both politely rejected via his reps, but more on that in a bit.)
In conversation Yeun is present and thoughtful, his face framed by devastatingly perfect cheekbones that could start their own contouring show on YouTube. Before we eat, though, he hovers over his pizza—a square, Detroit-style corner slice with pepperoni—and takes a quick photo. [Source]
Steven made an appearance at the 56th New York Film Festival yesterday where he appeared in a Q&A after a screening of the movie.
Steven is in Austin, Texas to attend the 2018 Fantastic Fest where Burning will be screening. Fantastic Fest is the largest genre film festival in the U.S., specialising in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and fantastic movies. We’ve got our hands on a couple of photos of him out & about, hoping for more to surface later.