Why director Daniels is happy about a little slap in the face

A man peers into a house through a screen door while another pretends to climb through the dog door for a portrait.

Everything Everywhere All at Once’s writers and directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert will stop at nothing, even long delays. “I’ve learned patience,” says Scheinert. “And we’re still learning what we made through other people’s eyes.”

(Sinna Nasseri / For the Time)

When Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert talk about the years of development of their many-worlds melodrama Everything Everywhere All at Once, it seems clear that filmmaking also navigates through a multiverse: the two-hour pitches for friends and several drafts; shifted starting dates leading to more rewrites; a jam-packed 38-day shoot and granular post-production process; then a seven-month wait before a stratospheric release that wowed critics, made the box office shine and culminated in 11 Oscar nods, including hers for the director.

“I’m like a different person now,” Scheinert says, sharing an IPA with co-nominee Kwan, who is sitting next to him on the couch at his East Los Angeles home. “I learned patience. And we’re still learning what we did through other people’s eyes.”

Like Michelle Yeoh, Oscar nominee for her heroically besieged laundromat owner/wife/mother Evelyn, who once contemplated the Daniels on set. “She said it was so exciting and wild to take risks and do these weird things,” says Scheinert. “And she’s had a career for 40 years.”

Kwan says the finished film is a testament to what veteran director and actress Joan Darling taught them at a directors’ lab in Sundance. “You are not a general; You’re a party host who invites all the cast and crew on set to bring the best version of themselves to the party,” says Kwan. “It’s such a deep, beautiful and simple idea that we brought to this film.” He pauses. “Even so, throwing a party is stressful.”

How do you guys cheer each other up on a tough day of filmmaking?

kwan: We start playing this game of hitting each other as hard as we can.

seems: Not usually where everyone can see it, you know?

kwan: Not faces, it’s backs, bodies, it’s like a practice fight to see who can beat each other more.

seems: It’s usually a hit with everyone, but it humiliates us and knocks you off your head. Because there is so much fear. It can make you stop sweating the little things.

A woman urges her daughter and husband behind her to protect them "Everything everywhere at once."

Stephanie Hsu, from left, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in a scene from Everything Everywhere All At Once.

(Allyson Riggs/AP)

Now you experience all the big things. What’s a weird moment from the past year that captures it?

kwan: Edgar Wright was kind enough to organize a screening in London and we were so jet lagged that when everyone was eating dinner I went to the bathroom and tried to sleep because I couldn’t sit up. And it was a concept restaurant and each booth was shaped like an egg. So you go into this egg pod and it plays ambient music with sound effects, so it’s actually perfect for sleeping. And after 20 minutes I went straight to the post-screening reception where I met Cate Blanchett, Margot Robbie and Simu Liu. So that was weird and weird and really sums up the year.

seems: And I’ll add some color. After he napped in the egg bath, we were in the elevator and he still wasn’t fully awake and we were both restless. So we did the slap game in the elevator.

kwan: Oh… we have!

seems: And the British people who were helping with the press tour were very freaked out.

Two men position their faces in a picture frame while a large dog lies on the couch.

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who may feel framed, get playful.

(Sinna Nasseri / For the Time)

Favorite problem-solving story from Everything?

seems: The decision to shoot in LA was a big debate. These were months in which various areas were budgeted.

kwan: And nobody shoots in LA

seems: But Dan has a child.

kwan: Many of our crew members have children.

seems: And we love our crew, we’ve worked with them for so long.

kwan: And when you travel abroad, you can only bring three or four keys with you [crew members]. We realized, even though we know on paper, that leaving the state means we have more [tax] Incentives and the dollar continues to be maxed out, we knew our crew was going to be the thing where every dollar counts because here they have more resources, they’ll be more rested and they’ll understand us in a way that new crew members never do would do.

seems: Developing a plan on how to do it here is one of the things I’m particularly proud of.

Eleven nominations make for a high probability of winning one. But now think of an Oscar that you know you would win.

kwan: The editing category, yes [we’re] very proud of it but if it was the award for most edits we would definitely win.

seems: Nobody else edited that much.

kwan: Our colorist Alex Bickel was horrified when he got the project. He said, “What? This one roll has more cuts than most movies!” We definitely crashed his machine a couple of times.

Two men act as if they were being pulled up a wall with a garden hose.

Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert joke around at Scheinert’s East Los Angeles home.

(Sinna Nasseri / For the Time)

After so much talk about the film, is there an unsung crew member that you’d like to recognize?

seems: I wrote a thank you letter to our assistant for the film today. Sometimes I look at the end credits of a movie and I’m like, “Really? All these people needed assistants? You can’t do your own laundry?” But it was a tough film. We shared an assistant and James Wyatt helped all these other departments as well. He was the funnel. James had really good vibes.

kwan: Everyone loved James.

seems: And if our assistant was really stressed, it would have been contagious. That would have been anyone’s first interaction with us. So I emailed him and said, “James, I’m so grateful to you man.”

How sweet.

seems: The trophy in the movie that Michelle Yeoh tries to stop the guy from sticking himself in the butt? It says “James Wyatt”.

And how much Daniels of you too.

kwan: He goes everywhere. He is a filmmaker and author himself.

seems: Yes, he got a front row seat in film school for everything. I was sometimes jealous of him.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2023-01-31/daniels-directors-everything-everywhere-all-at-once Why director Daniels is happy about a little slap in the face

Sarah Ridley

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