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“Everything Everywhere”’s James Hong Is Both ‘Sad’ and ‘Happy’ That He Doesn’t Hang Out with His Costars Much (Exclusive)

A year after the Oscar-winning success of 'Everything Everywhere All at Once,' James Hong says Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis are "so busy"

<p>Alamy</p> (Left-right:) Jamie Lee Curtis, James Hong, Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Wang, Dan Kwan, Stephanie Hsu and Daniel Scheinert at the 2023 Academy Awards

Alamy

(Left-right:) Jamie Lee Curtis, James Hong, Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Wang, Dan Kwan, Stephanie Hsu and Daniel Scheinert at the 2023 Academy Awards

A year after the Oscar-sweeping triumph of Everything Everywhere All at Once, its star James Hong says his castmates are busier than ever.

These days, he tells PEOPLE, the award-winning ensemble is “not in touch” very much. “And I'm very sad to say — and very happy to say — because they're all so busy!”

The 95-years-young Minnesota native, who after almost seven decades as a character actor in Hollywood attended his first Academy Awards last year, played the grouchy Gong Gong in the hit film from Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. After delighting audiences and becoming distributor A24’s highest grossing movie, Everything Everywhere won seven Oscars, including Best Picture, out of 11 nominations.

Related: Oscar Winner Ke Huy Quan Says He's 'Worried' That His Comeback Success 'Is Only a One-Time Thing'

“I kind of snuck off the stage with the award in my hand,” Hong recalls of joining the team onstage during the Best Picture win that night. “I had to give it up, but at least I got to hold onto it for a few minutes.”

<p> Allyson Riggs / A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection</p> (Left-right:) Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh and James Hong in "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Allyson Riggs / A24 / Courtesy Everett Collection

(Left-right:) Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh and James Hong in "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Alongside leading actress Michelle Yeoh and costars Ke Huy Quan, Stephanie Hsu, Jamie Lee Curtis and more, Hong made headlines at last year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards when they jointly accepted the best ensemble prize.

Called to the microphone by Yeoh, the Kung Fu Panda star recalled that early in his long career (Hong has the distinction of being the only living actor to have worked with Clark Gable), a producer told him that “Asians were not good enough and they are not box office."

Alongside his predominantly Asian castmates, Hong added: "But look at us now, huh?"

It’s because of the Oscar-winning success of Yeoh, Quan and Curtis that he’s both “sad” and “happy” to not be hanging out with them now, Hong tells PEOPLE.

“They’re out there,” he says proudly. “Everybody's busy, which is wonderful!”

Related: Michelle Yeoh Says 'Don't Wait for Hollywood' to Change the Course on Asian Representation 

Since Everything Everywhere, Yeoh has appeared in The School for Good and Evil, The Witcher: Blood Origin, A Haunting in Venice and multiple animated projects. The 61-year-old Malaysian star led Netflix drama The Brothers Sun, which premiered Jan. 4. 

Quan, 52, appeared in season two of Disney+’s Loki and will next feature in The Electric State. Hsu, 33, continued her work on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and made appearances in Poker Face and Joy Ride, while Curtis, 65, starred in The Haunted Mansion and an episode of The Bear.

Many of the Everything Everywhere cast members reunited in 2023’s Disney+ series American Born Chinese, on which Yeoh and Quan starred with Hsu and Hong appearing in one episode apiece.

<p>Steve Granitz/FilmMagic</p> (Left-right:) Susan Hong, James Hong and April Hong at the Los Angeles premiere of "Kung Fu Panda 4" March 3

Steve Granitz/FilmMagic

(Left-right:) Susan Hong, James Hong and April Hong at the Los Angeles premiere of "Kung Fu Panda 4" March 3

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Hong says that his Feb. 22 ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre, in which his hands and feet were immortalized in cement, came close to being a chance to see his castmates again. “Ke was going to come and make a speech for me at the ceremony,” he tells PEOPLE, “but he was busy. And Jamie Lee Curtis, I think she's out there in New York.”

But Hong was not alone at the ceremony, which took place on his 95th birthday. The special celebration included presentations from Kwan, Scheinert, Lucy Liu and a traditional dragon dance in honor of the Lunar New Year.

“How happy can I be to be represented or spoken for by these wonderful people who took time from their busy schedule to come out and say a few words,” he says. 

Curtis, along with Daniel Dae Kim, did present when Hong received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2022. The Halloween star remarked that it was "about f---ing time" that the character actor got his long-overdue recognition.

Related: James Hong Brings MSNBC's Katie Phang to Tears in Touching Interview: Your Father 'Would Be Very Proud'

“I may seem also a strange choice to be standing up here to talk about an Asian film legend like James Hong,” she said at the time. “Me, a White, more than middle-aged, college dropout, horror film, body-swapping and gyrating comedy actress.”

But meeting Hong on their first day of filming Everything Everywhere, she continued, “We bonded, we held hands. We laid on the floor and we looked in each other’s eyes and found mutual respect, real trust, and a mild and totally appropriate film set flirtation.”

Hong next extends his hundreds of Hollywood credits as one of the voices in Kung Fu Panda 4, in theaters now, in which he reprises his role as Chinese goose Mr. Ping, adoptive father to Jack Black’s panda Po.

The 96th annual Academy Awards will be held Sunday, March 10, at the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood and will air live on ABC starting at 7:00 p.m. ET.

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