"Everything Everywhere All at Once," a wacky action film about multiverses with a predominantly Asian cast, swept the 95th Academy Awards on Sunday, winning best picture and six other categories, with Malaysian star Michelle Yeoh making history as the first Asian to win the best actress award.
A surprise hit in the United States, the film is the latest triumph for Asian representation in Hollywood. In 2020, "Parasite," the South Korean dark comedy thriller directed by Bong Joon Ho, became the first non-English language film to win the Oscar for best picture.
Vietnam-born Ke Huy Quan won best actor in a supporting role, while Jamie Lee Curtis won best supporting actress. The other awards won by "Everything Everywhere All at Once" were best director, original screenplay and film editing.
"For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities. This is proof that dream big and dreams do come true," Yeoh said in her acceptance speech.
The film follows the story of Evelyn Wang, a Chinese immigrant, discontented with her life as a laundromat owner, who suddenly finds herself in a madcap adventure where she has to fight an evil force.
The protagonist, played by Yeoh, uses kung fu as she tries to save her family and the world while jumping into different multiverses, where she sees the different lives she could have led.
The sci-fi, comedy and action film, with absurd plot twists and drama about family relationships, was written and directed by the duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, known as the "Daniels," and earned 11 Oscar nominations.
The Oscar win for best picture came after the film had received a string of accolades, including Yeoh winning this year's Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy.
Yeoh, who is of Chinese descent, has starred in several Hong Kong action films, including alongside Jackie Chan, and was introduced to a broader international audience for her role as an agent in the James Bond movie "Tomorrow Never Dies" in 1997. She is also known for having starred in Ang Lee's Oscar-winning "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (2000).
She also appeared in Rob Marshall's "Memoirs of a Geisha" (2005) and the 2018 romantic comedy "Crazy Rich Asians" directed by Jon Chu. She portrayed Myanmar's democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, in Luc Besson's 2011 film "The Lady."
Accepting the Oscar, the 60-year-old star whose acting career spans four decades, said, "Ladies, don't let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime."
She dedicated her win to her mother Janet Yeoh, 84, who watched the award ceremony live in Kuala Lumpur together with 200 guests at an exclusive viewing party. The crowd erupted in cheers and clapped when her name was announced, and some were in tears.
"Malaysia boleh!" Janet proudly proclaimed just after Michelle collected her award. The phrase meaning "Malaysia can" is a popular rallying cry.
"She certainly deserved it and I had no doubt at all that she would win it," local English daily The New Straits Time quoted her saying. "She's a very hard working girl and I love her very much."
Yeoh also received a congratulatory message from Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.
"Michelle's illustrious and exemplary career in this field will certainly continue to be a source of great inspiration and motivation to our homegrown actors and actresses and provide even greater impetus to the growth of our local industry," he said in a statement.
Japan-born British writer Kazuo Ishiguro was nominated in the best-adapted screenplay category for "Living," a remake set in London of Akira Kurosawa's 1952 classic "Ikiru," but it lost to Sarah Polley's "Women Talking."
Brendan Fraser won best actor for his role in "The Whale."