Oscar nominees Brendan Fraser & Michelle Yeoh talk Mummy 3 memories, life lessons from Brendan's favorite movie Ratatouille, and taking selfies with their Gen Z fans.
Topics covered include: the magic of practical effects, living out of a suitcase, calculated risks, mapping the multiverse on a blackboard, Everything Everywhere and The Whale’s themes of forgiveness, films that open hearts, fighting to be original, total collaboration, lessons from Brendan’s favorite movie of all time Ratatouille, moving a literal mountain in China to get the perfect shot for The Mummy 3, working with Jet Li’s fight crew, pain as a smoke alarm, leaving stunt work to the professionals, awards season as a full-time job, giving the people what they want, going towards the danger, hyper-critical Chinese moms, the buoyant enthusiasm of the EEAAO cast, plus a brief cameo from Brendan’s dog PeeWee.
Michelle Yeoh: Hi, I'm Michelle Yeoh. I'm with...
Brendan Fraser: She's with Brendan Fraser, and this is the A24 podcast. So is this just the part where we talk to each other?
Michelle: I guess.
Brendan: For 50 minutes, we're just going to fill an hour? All right.
Michelle: All right. Come on, Mr. Fraser, we can do this. Right?
Brendan: Where are you right now? Are you home?
Michelle: No, no. I just got back to LA, so I'm just here until Monday and then I go back to London.
Brendan: Good. Good.
Michelle: Because I've been filming there. I'm filming Wicked.
Brendan: You're doing Wicked, yes.
Michelle: Oh man, it's so cool.
Brendan: Is it head to toe makeup for you? Like green makeup? No. Who are you?
Michelle: No, no, no, no. I don't play the Wicked Witch, even though I am the wicked witch. I play Madame Morrible. So it's Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo. Cynthia plays the Wicked Witch. Oh, it's amazing. The sets are just spectacular. You know how wonderful it is not to be working just with green or blue screens the whole time?
Brendan: Yes! Practically is the way to go. Also, it's great to work with actors and makeup and costume.
Michelle: Real things.
Brendan: It just seems ridiculous to do it any other way after you know what you're doing when you're doing it for real.
Michelle: But when you did The Whale, how long was that whole prosthetics?
Brendan: Four hours to get into it in the morning.
Michelle: Holy shoot. And how long were the shooting hours?
Brendan: Pretty long, like 12 to 14, but it was only like 30-something days, so it was okay. I didn't mind it that much, to tell you the truth. I mean, I really liked getting all the gear on because then I knew I was going to be able to play...
Michelle: You wanted to play the character.
Brendan: Yeah. You can play the part a lot more easily. And it's, again, like you said, it's not a digital creation, so—
Michelle: No, it wouldn't work. It wouldn't work at all. You have to feel it. And to feel it, you have to wear it.
Michelle: It's like your costume.
Michelle: But you were so beautiful in it.
Brendan: Thank you.
Michelle: You were just mesmerizing.
Brendan: Thanks, Michelle.
Michelle: I loved the way— Seriously. One thing I would do is hug Darren, because he brought you back to us. That's one thing I want to do is give him the biggest hug, because he brought you back to us.
Brendan: Thank you, Michelle.
Michelle: And that was so precious. So, so precious. Yes.
Brendan: Oh, thank you.
Michelle: But were you thinking of— Were you waiting for a script? Were you waiting to do something?
Brendan: I was hopeful that this was going to come together because, for The Whale, it was shot during time of COVID. Everything Everywhere was also, right?
Michelle: No, no, no. We were so lucky. The last day of the night shoot, the next morning was lockdown. We finished on the day of lockdown.
Brendan: What? Oh, wow! I didn't know that.
Michelle: We had only one day of green screen where I was in London or Paris, and the Daniels, Ke, Jonathan was in LA and New York. So that was the only day when we had to work. And you work with the iPad, the iPhone, you know, and all the different things. So I didn't have someone to work with, just myself, pretending. But it was quite amazing though, that we managed. But it was also interesting because Paul, our editor, he stared at me for two years. Poor guy.
Brendan: There must have been so much footage for him to sift through.
Michelle: Poor guy.
Brendan: All those montages, like a deck of cards, flipping your face all the way through the universes.
Michelle: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And his wife, we met for the first time when we were at South by Southwest where we had the premiere. And she said, "You've been in my house for two years."
Michelle: Oh, you shot for only 30 days?
Brendan: That's right. In Newburgh, New York. I'm in upstate New York right now, at home.
Michelle: Oh, that's nice. At least you're working not so far away from home when you were shooting that.
Brendan: I could come home for the weekends, which was great.
Michelle: Right. Yeah, it makes a big difference, doesn't it?
Brendan: It really does.
Michelle: It's hard to be living out of a suitcase so many months a year.
Brendan: I know, hotel life can really get to you after a while, because a hotel can be anywhere in the world, and you don't know where you're from anymore. [Laughs] You just keep waking up in the same hotel everywhere!
Michelle: Oh my God. And I've walked into the closet. I've walked into the wall in the middle of the night when you have to go to the bathroom.
Brendan: “Where am I?”
Michelle: You don't think, right? You think, “Oh, I think I'm in London.” Oh my God. I don't know. I'm so crazy. But it is, it's hard. And you are away from... Because my family's in Malaysia.
Michelle: So it's been hard to go back and see them because it's a much longer journey. But you made it during the COVID?
Brendan: We did, yes.
Michelle: You shot...
Brendan: I met Darren in January of 2020, and then he told me the log line for the movie. It's a man who's been living alone and he's been overeating, he's very unhealthy. And he needs to reconnect with his daughter for his salvation. And that and his body is hundreds and hundreds of pounds. And that was the challenge to cast the role. So we'd have to, like you say, we had to do prosthetics to create Charlie from the outside in.
And then we did a stage reading in the East Village in New York at St. Mark's Theater to audition it for Samuel D. Hunter, the screenplay writer, and some producers and other various people. And then it was suddenly March 2020, and we all know what happened. We all went home for a while. So I felt, yeah, like another ship has sailed, you know? It's something that I know I've encountered plenty of times in my career. You work on something for a while and you're hopeful for it. And then it doesn't really come along. And then for some obscure reason...
Michelle: It goes away.
Brendan: It goes away, yeah. But this time...
Michelle: It came back.
Brendan: He hung in there. We figured out how to...
Michelle: Make it work.
Brendan: As an industry, we figured out, okay, well we need these protocols, safety measures here. And the unions were great, and we were able to...
Michelle: Get it done.
Brendan: Get back to work, yeah. So we started again.
Michelle: I think you're right. Our industry was one of the first to get back to work. And it's hard because our industry is also so spread out, and there's so many cast and crew and so many different things happening at the same time. To keep everyone safe in a bubble, that really took much commitment from everyone who was involved.
Brendan: I know. And especially because we're actors. We need to be in one another's personal space all the time.
Brendan: And so it's partially, at that time, it was a calculated risk really.
Michelle: You were basically in one room, in your house?
Brendan: That's it. It's— Charlie's apartment is a two-bedroom apartment.
Michelle: Right. Which helped with the situation as well.
Brendan: It felt like we were in a submarine.
Michelle: You were safer. Right. In a sub, oh God. [Laughs]
Brendan: They kept everything out, I guess.
Michelle: I'm surprised Darren didn't lock you all up and say, “No one's going anywhere! Just in this bubble.”
Brendan: You'd be surprised. I'm pretty sure that he probably crossed his mind.
Michelle: “Now I'm going to keep everyone safe and no one gets to leave until I am done!”
Brendan: That's right. That's right.
Michelle: But did you get a lot of rehearsal time?
Brendan: A24 gave us three weeks. Did you guys rehearse too?
Michelle: Unfortunately we didn't have... Well, it was different because I was finishing a TV series, Star Trek Discovery in Toronto, and that didn't end until almost end of November, just beginning of December. So I couldn't get to the Daniels. So basically, by the time I finished Christmas and New Year's Eve, I went back the first week of January and we literally started shooting a week later. So I didn't have so much rehearsal, rehearsal. But I was very glad that Ke and Stephanie, because they had worked...
Michelle: Yes. They had a little bit more time with the Daniels, which was great because they are so brilliant in what they do.
Brendan: Did they have everything figured out, like, storyboarded? Was the movie in their mind already before they went to just do the work and shoot it? Or was there a lot of discovery on the day?
Michelle: There's both. There's so much that they already had put down. So they do work in that kind of… They know all the things that are going on and how it's going to come. When you read the script, you will understand that this all on paper…
Brendan: It all makes sense.
Michelle: Because when you read it, you go, "Oh God, how does this go into the Japanese chef universe? And then it's the raccoon, and then it jumps back to here." It takes a lot of figuring out. I had a big board for myself. So, the Daniels have a big blackboard.
Michelle: Yeah, that's right. So we could compare, “Okay, what is your chart looking like?” So theirs is on this giant blackboard, and it's all these arrows going over here and then coming back there. So they did have it figured— because this is something that cannot happen randomly.
Brendan: No. It's all got to be thought through.
Michelle: It all had to be thought out, mapped out very, very carefully. But one thing I will say about A24 was they did us a huge, huge favor. They not only believed in us, in this wacky little crazy movie. But they held onto it and never sort of say, "Okay, let's stream it."
Brendan: Yeah. Right. They didn't just sell it down the river. No.
Michelle: No. And then it would not have happened.
Brendan: It wouldn't have seen the audience. It wouldn't have found its people.
Michelle: No, this is a film that you have to be locked into your seat. You can't be distracted, because it's already so fractured and so happening that you have to give it your okay, strap in your...
Brendan: Your full attention. Yes.
Michelle: Put on your safety belt and go for that crazy ride. Yeah.
Brendan: But it's a gripping story too. I mean, you don't want to go anywhere. Your mind doesn't wander at all, from all of the parallel universes. And the heartfelt story of mother and daughter all the way through got me right in the heart, just right in the feels.
Michelle: Yes, you're right. Because even though it looks so messy, so frantic and chaotic, which is what life is, right?
Michelle: But then at the core of it is this really heartfelt, very authentic story about an Asian immigrant family, which everybody finds so many things to relate to. And it resonates very, very deeply with so many people on so many different levels. That was why it was beautiful.
If you think about it, The Whale and Everything Everywhere All at Once could not be more different. I mean, the same with the core of the love for your daughter, for that longing to reconnect, longing for forgiveness, and somehow, please, let's be a family again. But our pace is so crazy, whereas yours is so still.
Brendan: Yes. It's more of a chamber piece, it's like a quartet or something, plays musically.
Michelle: Which is so nice, to see the contrast of films that are being appreciated, right? For our audience to have this. But what I love about it is that sense of healing, because I think we need movies like this so that we can feel, we can be emotionally drawn in.
Brendan: Have you heard from any audience, I mean, over the world, who've been affected in a way that makes them feel like maybe I changed my thinking about something? Or I'm inspired now to have a conversation that I couldn't have. Because that's happening a lot to me right now.
Michelle: Oh, it's happening to all of us since the movie came out in March last year. So can you imagine this whole journey? And some of it has been so beautiful. My generation, they come up and they say, "Okay, I don't really get your film. But my daughter, who I've been estranged from for a while, called me after she saw your movie and say, ‘I think we should have a conversation.’”
Brendan: Oh, Michelle.
Michelle: And that really makes you feel like, that's what I hope our movies do. I hope that our story will affect you in this way. And some youngsters … I love it, the young generation before, they don't really see me. They don't really know me. Because if you think about James Bond and Memoirs of a Geisha, Crouching Tiger, that was 20-something years ago. They were not even conceived yet, probably.
Brendan: Right, no, many of them weren't.
Michelle: But now they walk up, they literally walk up to me, they're in their late teens or early twenties, and they say, "You're pretty cool. Can we take a selfie with you?" I mean, that totally rocks my world. Or they just come up and they hold your hand and they just look at you and you can see that they're so emotional, they can't speak, and they just want to... Oh...
Brendan: They want to share a moment with you.
Michelle: Right? They do that to you too?
Brendan: Yes. I get that frequently.
Michelle: But isn't that beautiful?
Brendan: It's nice. I'm hearing from a lot of fathers who are telling me that they're now feeling more comfortable or at least encouraged to mend fences with their family.
Michelle: Reach out.
Brendan: Yeah. It's certainly fathers and daughters in particular I'm hearing from. I'm also hearing from people who are struggling with obesity, and they've become encouraged to seek a bariatric procedure or make some sort of life-altering change in the way they live to improve their health. Because they have taken the story of The Whale, not exactly as a cautionary tale, but...
Michelle: But it is.
Brendan: It certainly is an inspiration for them to feel like, okay...
Michelle: I have to do something.
Brendan: Yeah, I got to do something here, and this is a good time to start because they've felt something as a result of seeing this film.
Michelle: I think that happens when you genuinely touch them and they are genuinely… They sort of take a step back. And that's what I've found with our film, is a lot of people are taking a step back and say, "Okay, I'm not going to judge. I shouldn't be judging. I should just open my hearts." And we keep saying, we all have superpowers in us. Our superpower is kindness, love and compassion. And if we can exercise that superpower more, our world will be such a better place.
Brendan: Charlie has a superpower too. His superpower is to bring out the good in other people when they can't see that in themselves, that's his power.
Michelle: Right. There's one thing, one line that you say in there, something about people can't stop caring, and we shouldn't, right?
Brendan: We're incapable of not caring. That's it.
Michelle: Yes. That's right.
Brendan: I have a feeling that people are incapable of not caring. I was going to say something to you about… Oh yes, let's talk about our favorite scenes in Everything Everywhere All at Once. Mine at first is the moment when you and Stephanie are leaving the laundromat. And I can see so much that she wants to tell her daughter that she's perfect, and I love you, and everything's going to be all right. But the only words that come out are a comment about...
Michelle: “You're so fat.”
Brendan: Yes. And the line that plays on the response that Stephanie makes is just shattering, how she knows, “You're better than that mom, but you just can't be in this moment. Oh no, it hasn't changed.” And then to go on that emotional journey to amend that by story's end is so gratifying.
Michelle: That's the Daniels, they did such...They're evil geniuses. Thank God they're not certifiably insane. But they are so good. They were relentless. They never stopped. Being original is one thing, trying to be original, we keep hearing that, "You know, you have to be original." But actually fighting to be original and keeping that originality is one of the biggest tasks because that's where A24 really helped us. They didn't give them notes to say, "What? What's with the hotdog fingers?"
Brendan: Right. The usual, breathe down the filmmakers' neck and make it safer and more easily digestible for an audience. The typical studio stuff that you see from the big studios. And it just feels like films have become directed by committees from nameless, faceless places far away that have nothing to do…
Michelle: A panel. Yes.
Brendan: Or apart from ensuring that they can curate a storyline that is unoffensive or doesn't take an opinion, or doesn't have a vision. And so A24 doesn't get in their way. I love that about them.
Michelle: And Guillermo del Toro, he's such an amazing, generous director. When he saw our movie, the first thing he said was, "See, this is the brilliance of the next generation of filmmakers, and this is what we need." But that's true, because only when you're very confident of who you are, you will never be afraid that the young people are coming from the back.
Michelle: Right? The next wave has to come.
Brendan: No, I'm looking for them. I'm like, where are they? There, I found my people. There's some new energy.
Michelle: That's right. Yes. And you need that. I mean, the Daniels have set up their own film language almost.
Michelle: Yeah. I mean, the way they shot the movie, the way they wrote the movie. They had the courage to write this. It sounds like a very boring, simple… About an Asian immigrant family, ho-hum. Like, nope. For the longest of time, everybody thought, what's so interesting? But they made it so interesting that this whole culture of people are being seen for the first time.
Brendan: That's the Trojan horse that you put the audience in and sneak them behind the walls and then, "Surprise!"
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah.
Brendan: I love it. I love it.
Michelle: But that's what as an audience, that's what we want, right? We want to be constantly surprised or oh, deep thinking or not. Or just be entertained. That's the magic of...
Brendan: And to find something unique and magical in the ordinary.
Michelle: Yes. A very ordinary family becomes so extraordinary and can save the universe. Yes! And it's so inspiring on so many levels. I think that's what both of our movies have done. It has been inspiring, it's helping with a lot of healing process. I mean, we've gone through such a bad time the last few years.
Brendan: Haven't we.
Michelle: Yes, the pandemic.
Brendan: We're still here. I know, all the politics and everything.
Michelle: We will never give up, right?
Brendan: No. I mean, we have a job where we... At least I'll speak for myself, I still feel like, “They're paying me to do this?”
Michelle: [Laughs] I know what you mean.
Brendan: I love my job. The dirty secret is we would do this whether we were being paid or not.
Brendan: Quiet, don't tell anyone.
Michelle: Don't say that out loud!
Brendan: Let me press the mute button on here.
Michelle: No, but it's true. I think you have to do this job with passion, real passion. And when you get the script and you go like, "Oh my God, this is such a gem." Right? "This is so good." And then you go, okay, what are the filmmakers, the directors, do they have that kind of vision to be an amazing storyteller?
Brendan: And can it be supported? I mean, just because you can think it up doesn't mean you can do it. I mean, normally yes, you can. You can in a way, but is it done properly? Is it supported?
Michelle: Right. Yes. And it has to be. These kind of gems have to have that total collaboration of all the parts, not just getting the right actors to do it. But behind the scenes, I mean, our crew...
Brendan: You have such a diverse discipline of filmmaking disciplines. Everything from cinematography, set deck, all of the effects. The costuming is just over the top.
Michelle: Right. Right. The hair and makeup, everything.
Brendan: Everything. Everything.
Michelle: And everybody gave more. One story that, when the Daniels told us, it was really funny. Remember the raccoon on Harry Shum's head?
Brendan: Yes, I loved the raccoon!
Michelle: That's animatronics. Where the hell would we get money like that, right? So they were envisioning, well you know, it'll be like the doll hanging where you whack it with the... It'd be that. And it would be like a little puppet, a hand puppet. Because we don't have that kind of money. But our prop master, our special effects people, they went out and they sought people out to say, "Come on, let us have— Play with your..."
Brendan: Build it.
Michelle: They were so good.
Brendan: If you build it, they will come. Ratatouille is one of my favorite movies of all time. I have three sons. And when they were growing up, I would cook in the kitchen for them, and we'd watch Ratatouille.
Michelle: Oh, you were like...
Brendan: I would. And also at the end of Ratatouille, when Anton Ego turns in his final restaurant review, I've gone back and looked at that passage of dialogue many times because it speaks to the creative process from the standpoint of a critic. And Ego says it's fun to write mean things about people and to take credit for other people's work. But he changes his heart, of course. And that's the point of it. And I think there's a message there that really speaks to us as filmmakers also. Stick to what your vision is. Stay to your truth.
Michelle: You have to.
Brendan: Let the people come to you instead of the other way around.
Michelle: If your vision is bold enough and your storytelling is good, they will come to you. Right?
Brendan: Agree. I agree.
Michelle: It's hard when so many things around you sometimes try and pull you in different directions and make you wonder and feel like, “Oh, maybe I'm not doing it right. Maybe this…” and fill you with self-doubt and all that. But we were very lucky with the Daniels, with Jonathan Wang, our producer. And then of course, with Jamie and James and Ke and Stephanie, and Larkin, our DP, we just huddled. It was like, we are the everything bagel. Nobody is going to come in between us.
Brendan: I know, and it hasn't gone away. I mean, I've been on the road with you guys in a way for the last four or five months.
Michelle: We have!
Brendan: I feel like your mascot.
Michelle: [Laughs] Oh, wait a minute. I thought we were yours.
Brendan: No, no, no, no, no. I want to be with the team. That's me. I'll be the water boy.
Michelle: Our family, our EEAAO family. It's just, it's quite amazing.
Brendan: When you guys had me backstage to take a picture with you after the Critics Choice Awards, it's a highlight of my life. That was so sweet of everyone.
Michelle: That was so sweet of you to come and join us.
Brendan: Oh, please.
Michelle: Do you know we adored you for a long, long time, right? It was so natural that you should be part of the family.
Brendan: I hope that we'll be taking more pictures like that soon.
Michelle: Yeah. I hope we get a chance to work together again. How about that?
Brendan: Yeah, let's find something different.
Michelle: Let's put it out there.
Brendan: I think the third Mummy movie was great for all kinds of reasons, because you have a job and it's exciting. And it was its own movie, part of a franchise. And I know it was a little controversial because there was a different director and the casting was a little bit different. But for the film that we made… It was made in Montreal and in China.
Michelle: Yes, and China.
Brendan: For me to work on a film with Chinese crew and Chinese production values and everything was a dream come true.
Michelle: Oh, good. I'm so glad you...
Brendan: I loved it.
Michelle: I'm so glad you enjoyed it. It's a very different atmosphere, you know? Everybody is just rushing in. If you say, "Get this thing done," it's done.
Brendan: It's done. I know. That's the astonishment. Like an anthill just goes to work on whatever it is.
Michelle: Everybody goes from all directions, then they disappear.
Brendan: Yes, exactly. Then poof, it's done. I remember when we were doing the battle at the end of it, I think that facility...
Michelle: Oh my God.
Brendan: Do you remember it? That facility, I heard that was a military facility they used for training tanks or something. So it was sand and big. And there were big berms and hills with sand. And Rob put a camera somewhere and there was a background that didn't work for the shot. The sun moved, I don't know what. But they went, "Oh no, we can't move the camera and we can't move the set. What do we do?" And so what did the crew do? They moved a mountain. They moved the mountain.
Michelle: We'll just shift this.
Brendan: No, they kept the camera where it was and they brought sand in and they filled out whatever...
Michelle: And they made the mountain.
Brendan: Yes! They created a mountain to make the shot work. And it happened so fast. And remember that big expensive set of the wall?
Michelle: Of course.
Brendan: It was going to get rained on at one point, and they had to keep shooting. So they scaffolded it in bamboo and plastic, and turned it into a studio. Overnight. It was incredible.
Michelle: I know. They are so resourceful, so creative.
Brendan: It's about possibility.
Michelle: They never say no.
Michelle: They don't know how to say no.
Brendan: They say, "Why not?" And then they go get it done.
Michelle: And, "When?" It's like, "When?" It's amazing. No, we had such a good time. I hope that we get to reconnect with Jet Li.
Brendan: How's he doing these days? Is he well?
Michelle: He's doing really well. Both his daughters are here in America studying. So I had the pleasure of meeting up with him. Well, actually his daughters wanted to meet up with me. No, I'm kidding. But Jet is wonderful. Jet is Jet. Jet is, you don't remember Jet? He's exactly the way he is.
Brendan: I love Jet.
Michelle: Yes. He's great.
Brendan: The first time I met him was in Montreal. And I was in a car with a driver, and I think I was going back to my apartment. But just by chance in traffic ahead of us was his car. He had just come from the airport. He is just landing to come to the production. And the driver said, "Oh, that's our car. Oh, Jet's in that car." And both cars, we figured it out. So we pulled over to just say hello. And so Jet and I met on the streets of Montreal for the first time. And when I got out to greet him and say hello, I was on the sidewalk. And I instinctively… I took a step down into the street so that the curb was a little bit higher than him, because I'm tall.
Michelle: Right. Yes. You're 6'3", right? And he's about my height. He's slightly taller than me.
Brendan: And I'm really sensitive to intimidating people, I want to keep my head a little lower than theirs.
Michelle: You're not towering over him, "Nice to meet you."
Brendan: And you know what he did? He stepped down into the street with me.
Michelle: That's very Jet.
Brendan: To say hello. That's him, right?
Michelle: Yeah, that is Jet. He's such a... I love this guy. He's well, hopefully we can find something to do together.
Brendan: That'd be great.
Michelle: That would be fun.
Brendan: Something new and exciting. I loved working with his fight crew because they had... Everything worked out and there're doubles. And I remember, there's one battle, Jet and I are actually going to throw some moves. And I'm like, what do I know? And I'd been working with his double, and I was pretty good at it. I was okay. And then it came time for Jet to come in and his double just pretty much whispered in his ear what to do.
Michelle: What to do.
Brendan: He didn't know. And he just went this, that, this, that. And Jet went, "Got it." And he hadn't rehearsed it before or anything. And he was like one move ahead of me the whole time. Like no, he pushed my elbow off camera so my arm would go up a little higher. It was all because we're both just actors. We both want to go to lunch, we just want to get this...
Michelle: Yeah, get it done. Get it done.
Brendan: Just to take it care of, and we can go and get something cold to drink.
Michelle: I remember that we had to, because we have a little bit of a fight scene with the sword and all those things. So of course, Rob had it arranged so that we would have rehearsal time. Remember where we come from in Hong Kong or in China, when we do an action sequence, we don't really get rehearsal time. We get on the set in our full costume, and then someone will show us what are the moves. We learn it, and we shoot it right away. So we go to rehearsal room. And so both of us are saying, "Hey, hi." And then, so we go through the motions. 10, 15 minutes later we're like, "We're done, right? Okay, let's go." So we left. And then I think half an hour later, Rob and the crew came to check on us to see how we were doing. They're like, "Where's Jet and Michelle?"
Brendan: Where are they?
Michelle: "They said they learnt it and then they left." We just upped and left.
Brendan: You guys went and got coffee, good for you.
Michelle: No, I think especially with Jet, he's like world champion martial arts for so many years. And also with him, it's like, if you know your ABCs, why do you have to learn them again?
Michelle: Yeah. That's what he keeps saying.
Brendan: That's the feeling that I got. It's just like as if somebody handed some sheet music to a jazz player, they just went, "Okay." They know what to do and they never seen it before. It's amazing.
Michelle: But you got really badly hurt during your...
Brendan: When I showed up for that movie, I already had some injuries in my knees and in my back that I've been dealing with for years. But that's just an accumulation of just small injuries that compounded into other ones. So while I was there, I was pretty much just making... I mean, I was treating myself like a gladiator, wrapping everything up and ice and all, everything. But I was never suffering.
Michelle: Oh, that's suffering. When your knees...
Brendan: You feel it, but you just keep going. And I had to change my thinking. I had to change my thinking after that. I had a little talk with myself, like, "Brendan, how about you work smart instead of work hard, you know?"
Michelle: Actually, that is the best advice. It's true. I went through a period that was like that. It was like, you don't have to prove anything anymore. You have to do it smart. Be smart about it. Be safe about it. Because when you get injured, nobody else can help you, you're stuck with it.
Brendan: And you're no good to anyone that way either.
Michelle: But did you have knee surgery?
Brendan: I did, yeah. A couple of times, I had it.
Michelle: Your ACL or meniscus?
Brendan: No, no, meniscus. I had a partial femoral patella replacement. But you know what? It works now and I'm out of pain, so I'm fine with it.
Michelle: Oh, that's the main thing.
Brendan: Yeah. That's the most important part. Because the tricky thing about pain that I've learned is, it's like that smoke alarm. You know when a smoke alarm goes off and you hear beep-beep-beep-beep-beep?
Michelle: Yeah, it's warning you.
Brendan: But you tune it out, your brain goes, I don't want to hear that. And the pain is like that smoke alarm and you tune it out, and that's not good because you're walking around with it. And only until you get the switch thrown to turn it off, then you go, oh, that's so much better. No wonder I was irascible. Or no wonder I was difficult to get motivated to do some things, because you forget that you got some physical issues going on. So it was good for me to take the time after that to just do everything I can.
Michelle: Deal with it.
Brendan: I mean, I'm great now and I'm super careful also.
Michelle: Like you say, you have to be smart. Same for myself as well. A couple of times when I had really not good injuries caused by yourself, right? Because you're doing a stunt and sometimes you don't think smart. You think, "Oh, well it looks kind of easy," but it's not. You have to be sensible about it. And then the easiest stunts are the ones that always gets you to do that.
Brendan: Those are the ones that get you.
Michelle: Because that's the one that you're most not careful about. You are focusing on something else.
Michelle: And then it will sweep you off your foot and you don't even know what happened.
Brendan: The big stuff, I've gone across an exploding bridge on the back of a really shy horse with things blowing up around me. I could have been thrown. I mean, all the things that could have gone wrong did not because I was super prepared for it. But then the simple stuff, like run in here and stop on the spot. That's where you turn your ankle. Like, oh, I can't believe I just did that.
Michelle: Because you're not thinking about it. You're thinking it's normal.
Brendan: Yeah, yeah.
Michelle: I think when you have a serious injury, that's when you have to reflect and start thinking.
Brendan: Let's let the stunt crew step in sometimes.
Michelle: Oh yeah. Now, I tend to be like, that's why the stunt people are there. Because I'm very good friends with most of them. And they say, "We need a job, you know? You can't just take away our jobs." I'm like, "I'm not trying to do that." Anyway, nowadays, I'm very happy to sit back, "Please."
Brendan: Just go, "You know what? You're going to be great in this shot. Go get 'em."
Michelle: Yeah. When I was younger, you used to think, oh, it's shameful. I mean, it's supposed to be you doing that, right? How can you pretend and let someone else do it and then pretend that it's you?
Brendan: Doesn't that get back to us trying to prove everything, though?
Michelle: Exactly. It does.
Brendan: And now I don't feel like I have anything to prove.
Michelle: No, we've done what, and we've shown the world what we can do and what we have done. So now it's time to step back and say, "Just focus on the face. Let's just do acting."
Brendan: Yes. And let the audience come to us instead of us go to them.
Michelle: Yes. I love that statement. Let them come to us, yeah. And they will, when it is what they want, when it touches them and moves them. And this is something that they need to see. I think that's so true.
Brendan: We've had really eventful years, haven't we, for the last two years, three years?
Michelle: Yes, the last few years. I mean, because also for my group, my community of people breaking that glass ceiling of allow us the opportunity to be seen more. But to be seen, we need stories that talk about us and give us roles to play. And not just say, tick the box, "Okay, we have the minorities here at one ball. Okay." And you know that happens so much.
Brendan: And I'm glad that it's turning around.
Michelle: Oh, yes.
Brendan: And that this movie is proving that it's the way it should be. And it can succeed by allowing those people to be seen and heard and represented. It's so refreshing.
Michelle: And so necessary. What we do is holding a mirror to ourselves and to our society and the world. And if we want to be global, we have to see all these different cultures, different races, different color, whatever it is. But I do hope that we get to a stage where we are cast, not by our race or culture or whatever, we are cast because we can do...
Brendan: Your humanity.
Michelle: Yes. It's going there slowly. It's like Wicked. The role that I play has always been played by a Caucasian lady. Jon Chu has went, "No. Why does it have to be that?"
Brendan: It doesn't need to. No, no, no. I think expanding all of those opportunities are just a boon for possibilities for filmmakers now. It's not restrictive.
Michelle: Right. It shouldn't be restrictive. And that's what we do best, is to break down barriers, make more space, take more in. That's when it becomes exciting and original and different. What do I know, right? I just work here. What are you working on next? Are you just very focused on this few weeks?
Brendan: Me? I don't have a job at the moment, which is okay because I feel like I've had a full-time one in all of this award season stuff, which is new...
Michelle: It hasn't finished.
Brendan: It's new to me. It's not over yet. It's a moment right now to pause and feel like, okay, we made it to the finish line—
Michelle: It is tough, this is the first time I’m doing it.
Brendan: It’s a job.
Michelle: It’s scary, it’s terrifying. Everyday you go in and I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say. I don’t understand what’s going on. This whole process is a different process than when you go on making a movie. Because when we go on to make a film, we did not start making the movie thinking this is what we’re going to go through. This is right—
Brendan: Right, right.
Michelle: It is. It is, right? Like you say, whatever you can do, you have already done. I mean, this whole process is a, it's a different process of when you made the movie. Because when we make the film, we did not start making the movie thinking, this is what we are going to go through. This is the end product of it. I mean, it's the ultimate dream for any filmmaker that their movie be validated, their actors, their cast and crew. Everyone is going to be up there to be cheered on by the world.
Brendan: To get their flowers. I mean, that's the hope.
Michelle: It is. And ours is such a weird and wacky, wonderful movie. A lot of people went, "That's not really that kind of film," right? I beg to differ?
Brendan: Yeah, I disagree. It is. I think you gave the people what they wanted. That's what it was. That film was the popular choice. The Whale is more of an audience film than it is a critics film. It's sort of 50/50 as a critics film go. Yeah, you can look at percentages and all this stuff. But I think what it comes down to is...
Michelle: It's an audience.
Brendan: It speaks to the people. It doesn't speak to the Brainiac people whose job it is to write and criticize, and to be Anton Ego in Ratatouille. It speaks to the people who are seeing the film. It speaks to the people who are eating Ratatouille's food. That's who it is.
Michelle: Yeah. But also as a critic, they do have a responsibility. They can kill a movie before it even gets a chance to live a life.
Brendan: Yeah, there's that.
Michelle: Sometimes it can be so brutal. It's like, just give us a chance.
Brendan: Sometimes it's heavy-handed. I know.
Michelle: But that's how it is, right?
Brendan: Sometimes there's films that get found years later, they get a resurgence or because nostalgia.
Michelle: I think also sometimes it's because it's what we say, "Before its time." because maybe the audience are not ready for that kind of film. It's a little...
Michelle: And then later on they go like, "Oh, that actually, that makes some sense right now. And we should revisit it and go like, wow, that actually was a pretty good movie. Why didn't we see that before?"
Brendan: The thing about Everything All at Once is that it's not in time. It's a timeless film. It would've been relevant 18 years ago, 18 years from now, it would've been. It still would be.
Michelle: Yeah. That's the Daniels, that's the beauty about the Daniels. They said, "What have we got to lose? We're just going put in everything that people tell us what we can't do." They said, "It won't work. That won't work." And I love the Daniels because when two people work together and you're afraid, ego gets in the way. And when I first met them, because I had to say, when you meet the filmmaker, which is the most important thing, what is paper is still on paper. Do they have the vision? Do they have the passion?
I find that sometimes, especially when you are young filmmakers, when it's your first or second movie, you are like, you put your heart and soul and everything into it. And it's not that the great masters don't do the same thing, but they are so laden with expectations of how they should tell their story. And then we as the audience go like, "Oh, that's disappointing. Why didn't he do that?" Because you expect a certain thing from them. But with the Daniels, it's like they are weird. They're wacky. And my people would say it's a bit of a risk because it's kind of out there.
Brendan: But that's important because they take the risks. They go towards the danger. That's where you get something good.
Brendan: I mean, you should take risks in art. In art, not life, I think. But you're going to find that some growth will occur if you do something that's out of your comfort zone.
Michelle: But as an actor, you have to do that because you want to be challenged the whole time, right?
Brendan: Absolutely. You want to be learning, evolving and be doing something different. Something that is going to put, like you say, out of your comfort zone, sort of dangle you out the window. Which is safe in the movie, but not in real life.
No, exactly. Yes.
Michelle: And when I met with them, it's how they work together that was the most impressive when they speak about their movies. The only thing I remember saying to them, giving them a hard time was like, "You cannot call Evelyn the character Michelle Wang."
Michelle: But then they're like, "But no, no, no, no. We wrote it with you in mind." I'm like, "No, no, no, no, no."
Brendan: They needed a different name.
Michelle: No, no, no, no, no. But I'm not a laundromat owner. I know nothing about that kind of thing. And also, she's that ordinary woman that needs the voice. She deserves to be seen and heard. That family as a whole needs us to tell their story, but for themselves, not with me sticking my face in there and my name in there. Which doesn't work because as an audience you'll be so distracted. "Is that Michelle? Oh God." Like my mom, she cannot differentiate between when I'm acting in the movie. She'll say, "Why do you look so old? Why can't you just look like the one in..."
Brendan: It's makeup, mom.
Michelle: Oh my God.
Brendan: Thanks, mom.
Michelle: She's like the Evelyn Wang with her daughter.
Brendan: She's the Evelyn Wang.
Michelle: If I don't see her for months, the first thing she'll say to me, "Why don't you cut your hair?" "Yeah, you're so dark." I'm like, "Love you too, mom. I haven't seen you for you know..." It's great, these Chinese moms.
Brendan: It's cultural, right? I mean, everybody has the same mother. Everyone can identify in some way, right?
Michelle: Yes, totally. They always tell you what is wrong. And I think that's where the communication gap, the generational gap that the young people keep talking about is like, you always put me down. You always tell me that I'm not good enough.
Brendan: Good enough.
Michelle: Yeah, you're not this, you're not that. You should get a haircut. You should lose weight. You should do this. But the thought is from love and care, is so that you will be better so that you will improve, right? Not that to say that you are not enough. In fact, what I love about the end sequence is, what Evelyn is telling the daughter is like, "No matter what you are, you will always be enough for me." And I think that was the most beautiful message.
Brendan: It was absolutely gorgeous. It was.
Michelle: Thank you. So was yours.
Brendan: I have to tell you really quickly, and I think we might be short on time here. But I want to make sure that I acknowledged that Ke and I have worked together before. Do you know that?
Michelle: I know. Yes, I know.
Brendan: It's been such a privilege to see him again these few times.
Michelle: Thank God he never lost his love for filmmaking. So he went and did amazing things back in Asia, in Hong Kong, behind the camera. And it's so nice and so gratifying that he's able to pop up again because he's so good at what he does. We have been so blessed with this whole cast.
Brendan: He is the same as I remember him from 30 years ago.
Michelle: Still with that high voice?
Brendan: Yes. And just that perennial buoyant enthusiasm. And he's always thinking about other people.
Brendan: He puts everyone else first.
Michelle: Yeah. Yeah. See, we had such a generous cast. Ke did that, Jamie Lee does that all the time. We were just like basking in love the whole time. Even though it was so intense, the shooting, it was fun.
Brendan: Right. Yeah.
Michelle: You would not imagine that it could have been fun. But no, yours cannot have been fun. Yours was so heart wrenching. Oh my God.
Brendan: I did have moments of fun. And that was usually in the makeup chair. I would watch YouTube videos of street cooking in Hong Kong, in Korea. I love street cooking videos. All those bizarre, unique foods, that's what I watch all day.
Michelle: Have you watched Feed Phil? Come Feed Phil.
Brendan: Feed Phil, yeah!
Michelle: Yes. That's why I do that as well. When everything is so beautiful and out there and eating local food.
Brendan: Yeah. Oh, I'm sorry. I'm at home right now. I have a little dog in my lap. You maybe didn't even know that.
Brendan: This is Peewee. Someone just came in the door.
Brendan: Peewee, come here.
Michelle: No, he's like, I need some attention.
Brendan: Oh, sorry. That means there's somebody at the door.
Michelle: Okay. It was so nice to talk to you. I wish we had more opportunity before. Now that we're in touch.
Brendan: It's an open door from here.
Brendan: So, I'm not going to say goodbye. I'm going to say farewell. That means I know I'll see you soon.
Michelle: Farewell. I'll see you very soon.
Brendan: That means I'll see you soon.
Michelle: I will see you soon.
Brendan: I'll be seeing you soon. I send my love. Thank you.
Michelle: Big kiss.
Michelle: I send my love. Bye-Bye.