Is Everything Everywhere actress Stephanie Hsu the dark horse of award season?

LOS ANGELES – Every time Stephanie Hsu thinks she has become used to the reactions to Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), something new manages to throw her for a loop.

And, on a Friday night in January at a West Hollywood hotel bar, it was Steve Buscemi.

“I’m sorry to be so rude,” said the 65-year-old American actor, who sidled up to the table during an interview to say hello to Hsu.

It turned out that Buscemi was a major fan of the hit science-fiction film, in which the Chinese-American actress plays the unhappy daughter of Michelle Yeoh’s multiverse-skipping saviour. He had seen the movie multiple times, including at an actors’ guild screening earlier that evening.

Hsu, 32, is often stopped by people who love Everything Everywhere All At Once, but this was a pinch-me moment that she met with a big grin. Buscemi asked for a picture and the buoyant Hsu leapt out of the booth to pose with him, then returned to her dirty martini. “That was crazy,” she said after he left. “It’s all crazy.”

Although the film came out nearly a year ago, its award season afterlife has proved so potent that Everything Everywhere All At Once has begun to sound less like a title and more like the organising principle of Hsu’s day planner.

On the day she met The New York Times, she had just completed several interviews and a pit stop at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. A few days later, she would attend the Golden Globes, where her co-stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Ke Huy Quan and Yeoh were all nominated, and where the latter two won major awards.

Hsu was not nominated for a Globe and, as the ensemble’s least-known member, she has sometimes been left out of the awards conversation, although she did receive a Screen Actors Guild nomination.

Funny and refreshingly honest, Hsu understands that nothing is guaranteed this award season and many may see her as an underdog.

“The elephant in the room,” she said, “is the dark horse of me.”

Still, even if Hsu is not as famous as her veteran co-stars, her presence is no less pivotal. In Everything Everywhere All At Once, Hsu plays Joy, who is crestfallen that her mother, a Chinese-American laundromat owner named Evelyn (Yeoh), makes so little effort to understand her.

It is crucial that viewers feel for Joy because audiences soon learn that in every other universe, she is a flashy, universe-collapsing supervillain named Jobu whom Evelyn is charged with defeating.

Hsu drew a map to track how fed-up Joy became the nihilistic Jobu and tried to imbue the baddie with a strong emotional core: Underneath it all, this is a supervillain who wants nothing more than to be embraced by her mother.

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