When I was growing up in the ’90s, the only Asian-American writer I knew was Amy Tan. Her thick paperbacks, “The Joy Luck Club” and “The Kitchen God’s Wife,” were on everyone’s bookshelves. I, of course, hated Amy Tan because I considered myself a hard-edged thinker. Her books, which were mostly about industrious, dignified immigrants, embodied a type of minstrelsy in which the Asian-American writer gives the white audience bits of tossed-off Oriental wisdom — “Isn’t hate merely the result of wounded love?” — or a few parables about gold and black tigers or what have you. If I had been asked back then what I planned to write about, I might have gestured toward the Beatniks or cutting down trees in the woods or heroin or jazz, but the only concrete pledge I could have given you was, “I will not write ‘The Joy Luck Club.’”
In graduate school, while in an M.F.A. program, I would walk to the bookstore and wander among the fiction shelves, wondering where my novel would fit. This was embarrassing and vain, and although I was certainly both those things, I stage-managed my reverie with some measure of self-aware detachment, performing at being a broke, unpublished author fantasizing about his bright future. In a similar spirit, I would look around for Asian authors who were not Amy Tan. There were also Maxine Hong Kingston and Chang-Rae Lee, but I saw few others. I knew I was supposed to have some feelings about the dearth of published Asian authors, but nothing really came to me. Maybe there just weren’t many Asian people trying to write novels, or maybe they were bad at it. The tug-of-war between my intellect, which was telling me that I might be in for some rough times in publishing, and my American ambition, which was feeding me some version of a sneaker ad — Just Do It — was never much of a contest. The world would yield to me.
I was 23 and typing out a novel about a young Korean man who had a brother with Down syndrome whom he cast in various public-service announcements about tolerance. There were parts that were supposed to be a direct parody of “Life Goes On,” the ABC drama that starred Chris Burke as Corky Thatcher. I thought this was very edgy and funny, but I also mixed in occasional ruminations about Koreanness and the burdens of an immigrant childhood. My workshop professor at the time was known as a leader in the field of experimental fiction. One day, he said something about my work that has stuck with me. “This novel will almost certainly be published because it’s about a life we don’t hear about too often,” I recall him saying. “But what we need to do is figure out a way to elevate it so that it’s not just a telling of the way things are for a certain type of person.”
Declarations like these were quite common in the workshop. Delivered with great gravity, they drew a line between those of us who had serious literary ambitions and those who just wanted to tell our life stories to the world for a six-figure advance and readings at the 92nd Street Y. [More at Source]
Variety and PBS SoCal announced today the actor lineup and schedule for the thirteenth season of their three-time Emmy Award-winning series Variety Studio: Actors on Actors.
The new season was filmed entirely from the actors’ homes and includes exclusive one-on-one conversations between top acting talent from potential contending movies in this year’s Academy Awards race. The episodes will premiere on PBS SoCal on Friday, March 5 at 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm. All episodes will stream on pbssocal.org and on the free PBS Video app following their premieres.
Variety’s Actors on Actors issue will hit newsstands on Jan. 20 with clips appearing on Variety.com starting Jan. 19. All Variety.com Actors on Actors videos will be presented by Amazon Studios. This season’s featured conversations are:
Jodie Foster (“The Mauritanian”) with Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)
Ben Affleck (“The Way Back”) with Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
George Clooney (“The Midnight Sky”) with Michelle Pfeiffer (“French Exit”)
Tom Holland (“Cherry”) with Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)
Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) with Leslie Odom Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)
Jamie Dornan (“Wild Mountain Thyme”) with Eddie Redmayne (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)
Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”) with Pete Davidson (“The King of Staten Island”)
Jared Leto (“The Little Things”) with John David Washington (“Malcolm & Marie”)
Zendaya (“Malcolm & Marie”) with Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)
Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”) with Steven Yeun (“Minari”)
Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”) with Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”) [Source]
Impostor syndrome: Everybody feels it, even Hollywood’s most seasoned stars. In a conversation recorded last month, actors Delroy Lindo, Riz Ahmed, Steven Yeun, Gary Oldman and George Clooney copped to the pangs of self-doubt they’ve experienced in their careers and the “jet fuel” that’s helped them power through.
“This idea of the impostor syndrome, it’s real with every actor,” said Clooney, who directed himself as a lone astronomer left on a dying Earth in the sci-fi adaptation “The Midnight Sky.” “Because to be successful at any level in this industry means that you’re beating such huge odds.”
Seeing that a performance can make a lasting impact and even meaningful change is a persuasive counterweight, said Ahmed, who plays Ruben, a drummer losing his hearing in “Sound of Metal.” “It’s a tremendous jet fuel to know that your work might help stretch culture in some way.”
“I think it’s very healthy, this impostor syndrome,” added “Mank” star Oldman, who portrays “Citizen Kane” screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in the period biopic. “If someone said to me, ‘What do you think is your best work?’ I’d like to say, ‘Next year. The best work is the next one.’”
Beaming in remotely for the annual Envelope Oscar Roundtable, held virtually this year due to the pandemic, the quintet vowed to raise a glass when it’s safe to do so. They shared stories and laughs, as well as the sentiment that’s been on their minds now more than ever — gratitude.
Yeun, who stars as a family man chasing his American dream in “Minari,” described the sensation of panic — then faith — that overcame him while in the shower two days before filming. “I was in my hotel room freaking out. I was like, ‘I’m going to do a terrible job. Every Korean American kid is going to hate me because I represented this poorly.’ I was in the shower and I just started sobbing. And the feelings that overwhelmed me were fear, awe, gratitude and submission. It all came together into this feeling of just faith,” he said.
Meanwhile, the devastating COVID-19 pandemic has touched everyone around the globe, including our panelists. Lindo revealed that he’d battled the virus back in March — only months before drawing acclaim from audiences and critics alike for his turn as the tormented Vietnam War veteran Paul in “Da 5 Bloods.”
“I was very sick,” he said. “But the fact that I recovered from that is a consistent wake-up call and a consistent reminder to be grateful. Because the alternative could have been very different for me.”
The five actors also took time to remember the late Chadwick Boseman, who died in August after starring with Lindo in “Da 5 Bloods” and filming his final performance in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
“It’s a crappy year, and we don’t get to be in the same room together,” Clooney said. “And if we were sitting in a room right now, all of us together, there’d be an empty chair for Chadwick Boseman.”
Their conversation here has been edited for length and clarity. [More at Source]
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]
The 46th edition of the Deauville American Film Festival is set to open with Lee Isaac Chung’s critically acclaimed drama “Minari,” and will close with Douglas Attal’s fantasy-filled French movie “How I Became a Super Hero.”
“Minari,” one of the 15 films that will screen in competition at Deauville, was a standout at Sundance where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. “Minari” tells the autobiographical tale of a Korean American family who moves to Arkansas to start a farm in the 1980s. Chung’s fifth film, “Minari” is inspired by the filmmaker’s own childhood and stars Steven Yeun, Yeri Han, Alan Kim, Noel Kate Cho and Scott Haze.
Deauville’s artistic director Bruno Barde described “Minari” as an exceptional film reminiscent of John Ford’s movies. Barde said the selection of the film in competition underscores Deauville’s “desire for a rigorous popular cinema.” [more at source]
David and Nathan Zellner will direct Alpha Gang, with Andrea Riseborough, Jon Hamm, Nicholas Hoult, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Mackenzie Davis, Sofia Boutella and Steven Yeun starring. Protagonist Pictures is handling international sales with CAA Media Finance handling North American sales. Pic will be unveiled at virtual Cannes and shooting will commence in 2021 in Eastern Europe.
They look and sound human, but Alpha Gang are aliens, sent on a mission to conquer Earth. Armed and dangerous, they show no mercy, until they catch the most toxic, contagious human disease of all: emotion. Their plan for world domination is in danger of derailing once they start to feel joy, fear, empathy, and – worst of all – love… But hopefully they can still annihilate mankind before it’s too late.
The Zellner Brothers will direct and produce from the script written by David Zellner. Adele Romanski and Sara Murphy of Pastel will produce. [Source]