Actress Stephanie Hsu, star of this year’s award-winning independent film ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once’, will receive the 2022 Hamptons International Film Festival Breakthrough Artist Award.
The Hamptons International Film Festival Breakthrough Artist Award recognizes emerging talent in the arts, highlighting their burgeoning careers and outstanding work on stage and screen. Throughout its history, HIFF has emphasized young talent, spotlighting dynamic performers each year.
In “Everything Everywhere All At Once” — which was written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, and released earlier this year — Hsu plays Joy Wang/Jobu Tupaki in a host of multiverse characters in this sci-fi fantasy comedy-drama. absurd fiction. Since its release, the film has garnered critical acclaim, grossing over $100 million at the box office, and garnering buzz at the Oscars. The film also stars the legendary Michelle Yeoh.
Hsu is also well known for her beloved role as Mei Lin in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” for which Hsu and the cast received the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series. Most recently, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was nominated for the 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Hsu began her arts career on Broadway, where she played Karen the Computer in “SpongeBob The Musical” and Christine Canigula in “Be More Chill.” She was born in California and moved to Brooklyn to study at NYU and spent 11 years in New York.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to continue to shine a light on the rising careers of talented young artists by honoring Stephanie Hsu with this year’s award,” said Anne Chaisson, Executive Director of HamptonsFilm. “It’s an incredible honor that HIFF can offer deserving artists a platform to showcase their talents and work here in the Hamptons.”
Hsu took the time to chat with James Lane Post about his early career, filming “Everything Everywhere,” and more.
Can you tell us a bit about your career as an actor? How did you start? Tell us about your time on Broadway.
Even until now, people were opening doors for me that I didn’t know existed… I ended up doing theater in high school. An upperclassman said I should think about acting in college. I didn’t know you could study acting in college. I was like, “I don’t know, just let me see what’s going on.”
I decided to go to NYU. I’ve always loved New York and really felt a spiritual connection to this place and the vibrancy and artistic nature of New York.
My main mentor was Elizabeth Swados, known for a musical she wrote in the 70s, “Runaways”, where she took children to the streets of New York and brought them to a room where they told their story, and they developed a musical. ensemble that premiered at The Public and ended up on Broadway. She really instilled in me the importance of art as a healing tool, to be subversive and to question what was not working in our careers at the time. Broadway was never even on my radar. I wasn’t going to be in “Miss Saigon”, it’s not my wheelhouse, and that’s kind of what was available at the time. So I decided to stick to experimental theatre, which is a very international community. Basically, along the way, I was thrown into a table read in the Viacom building for a potential “SpongeBob Musical” and ended up sticking with that development process for five or six years. Then I got a phone call one day, “Hey, wanna come to Broadway?”
Strangely, I never saw myself on Broadway and found myself on Broadway two seasons in a row. The following season, I had the chance to play the female lead in a musical called “Be More Chill”.
My life has been like that. The same with “Everything Everywhere” and “Mrs. Maisel”, it’s always like I get a random phone call and someone says, “We think you’ll be really perfect for this, do you want to come in please ?
Less than a week after I left for LA, The Daniels called me and said, “It’s really random, but we’re working on a movie and we think you’ll be really perfect for it.” No pressure if you’re not into it. And the rest is history.
You are honored at the Hamptons cinema Festival. Congratulations! It is among many others honors and praise for the film “All Everywhere, all at once. Can you talk a bit about the reaction to the movie and what it’s like to be honored?
It was the most surreal explosion of experiences, I think, for all of us. We shot this film before the pandemic, until the day when everything stopped. We’ve also been sitting on the movie for two years and even then I sure knew it was really special. Before the pandemic, knowing nothing about the film industry or what the concept of the box office really meant, I remember taking Dan Kwan aside and saying, “This movie is going to bring people back to the movie theater.” I couldn’t have foreseen that it would become what it has become, not only this crazy phenomenon with independent films, but pandering to the cultural zeitgeist. I see wide eyes everywhere and can’t help but think it’s related to “Everything Everywhere”. It’s been really wild and I’m really, really grateful that we all love each other so much, so it’s joyful to be on this road together.
Do you often visit the East End? Is there anything you look forward to doing while you’re here for HamptonsFilm?
Oh my God. I lived in New York for 11 years and have never been to the Hamptons. So I feel really excited to be there. I’m really excited to attend the legendary East End.
The movie is unlike anything we’ve seen before. A wild journey where the the audience laughs and cries and goes through a whole range of emotions. Can you tell us a bit about filming the Multiverse? Did you have a favorite scene to shoot?
Many people often ask if the script is crazy or confusing or totally different from what we see on screen. But a testament to The Daniels, the script feels very close to what you see on screen.
My favorite scene is Jobu’s introduction, when she comes down the hall with an Elvis retinue and a pig. We also shot that whole scene in one day, so with every costume change, it all happened in real time.
What I love about this scene is that it allowed us to unleash chaos so much and completely surprise ourselves. It was also nerve-wracking because it was the first one I shot with Michelle. This is probably the weirdest thing I’ve been in the whole movie. She and I had dinner before, but all of a sudden I was like, I’m about to unleash a really weird multiversal creature on legend Michelle Yeoh, and we never acted together. I had the Daniels in the room announce that we were releasing Jobu.
One of my other favorite moments was towards the end of the scene. There’s a point where Jobu’s character describes this very strange thing called “The Bagel”. We decided there would be an extreme close-up. You may think you’re going to know what’s going to happen or what a scene is going to look like, but when you put the pieces together, something completely surprises you. I remember shooting this ultra, ultra close-up and something really magical happened. The scene turned into something else that was much darker, weirder, and more vulnerable than we expected.
Can you tell us a bit about the costume design and the process?
Shirley Kurata is a genius… It was really a collaborative process. This film works perfectly for Shirley’s strengths as she herself is a couture maximalist. One of the times was when we had free time on set, which is unheard of. I had time to kill, so I went to Shirley’s office. We started creating a vocabulary where certain pieces of Jobu would overlap to tell the story that she’s all over the place, and there was a costume where she gave me those converse sneakers that Joy wears, but in this version Jobu Joy’s shoelaces were made of internet cables. It’s so subtle, but so sensible.
I went to his office and asked him, “How about making earrings out of internet cables too?” And she said okay… They walked into the movie. It’s so funny because nobody would notice it unless they watched it 300 times. For us, it was such an embodiment of the spirit to make the film. We knew why philosophically and intellectually it made sense for the character’s journey.
I think my favorite costume that embodied the texture of the story itself – the one that seems the most complex is the one we called Jumble Jobu, which happens at the end when Joy and Jobu’s character somehow merge so… The makeup is very Picasso-esque, and my bangs are long on one side and short on one side, and the whole costume is made up of pieces of every costume I’ve worn up to that point .
It’s one of the most artistic experiences I’ve ever had.