Stephanie Hsu on Everything Everywhere All at Once and Being Like Playdough

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Credit: A24

Everything Everywhere All at Once stars Michelle Yeoh as a mother and wife who discovers she can acquire many skills, thanks to the power of crossing the multiverse and experiencing her other selves. These skills include martial arts, professional cooking, and more. Stephanie Hsu plays her daughter, Joy Wang, and Joby Tupaki, different characters with one seeking to end life.

How are you feeling with just the reception so far?

Stephanie Hsu: It’s pretty crazy. I have to say, I mean, I love this movie so much. Even when I saw the final cut before South by Southwest, I was feeling really shy about how much I loved it. Because I was like, “Oh, no, what if people don’t get it?” I knew that some people would definitely get it. But then I was worried that it would be confusing to people or that people just wouldn’t respond to it. And it has been the exact opposite, which is to say, they were like, “This is the best movie I’ve ever seen.” It’s crazy. Honestly, I feel relief and an immense amount of joy to get to fully ride this wave and celebrate this movie. As much as we love it and get to share it with as many people, I just feel like it’s such a collective moment of celebrating art. And that feels so cool to be a part of.

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Credit: A24

It’s the multiverse, and you have to bring all these different personalities together. What were the challenges?

Stephanie Hsu: I think the biggest challenge was making sure that all the sort of chaos and the wildness and the craziness was still grounded in a very rooted place, and never letting go of that thread. The Daniels and I had a lot of conversations about nihilism, and what it means if nothing matters. and we definitely really enjoyed talking about the philosophy of it. So I think that was very much in the sort of soup of the characters and my way in. But also I usually enter through the body. Physicality is a helpful way for me to start to understand the parameters of characters. And of course, Joy is very downtrodden and has so much despair, and that really sinks into one body. And then Jobu on the other hand can be a worm, a squirrel, or an Elvis. So it was getting to play with everything and being like playdough almost, or goo.

Your mother, father and grandfather are played by Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and James Hong, respectively. So what was that like acting opposite them?

Stephanie Hsu: We really felt like a family right away. And that sounds so cliche to say, but it really is true. Chemistry is not something that you can create. It’s something that sometimes is either there or not. And we really just fell right into the family dynamic very quickly, meaning that we love each other, and we have. Everyone is also very silly in this family. And by this family, I mean, the James, Michelle, Ke, Stephanie family. And Jamie [Lee Curtis]. We just had so much fun with each other. And all of them really inspired me to just have fun. We had so much fun and surrendered to the process. Everybody worked their asses off but also just love to celebrate with one another. And I think that’s a huge part of anything this huge, right? Like any story this complicated, you have to always come back to play with a sense of lightness so that it doesn’t become alienating to anyone.

And in this movie with the different characters, you also get different outfits and makeup. And did you get to have any input on the ideas for that? And yeah, if you have a particular favorite to wear.

Stephanie Hsu: Shirley Kurata is our costume designer. I have to say, most come from her very beautiful, artistic, wild mind. But here’s one of my favorite stories that is quintessential to the collaborative process. There was a day where we had a little bit of extra time, and I was in an alpha Joy outfit. No one saw my shoelaces, but my shoelaces were made out of like internet cables. And I went into Shirley’s office, and I saw that she had more internet cables on her desk. I said, “Shirley, can I make these earrings out of internet cables?” I took a hoop earring and I wanted to thread the internet cable around the hoop earring. She was like, “I love that idea.” So we just did arts and crafts in her office, and they make a tiny little cameo. But what I love about that story is it just goes to show that all of us were really choosing to make this project together and really collaborating and saying yes to people’s ideas. And that, I think, is what makes it so special.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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