For her breakout efficiency within the science-fiction satire Downsizing starring Matt Damon, actress Hong Chau drew on her previous because the baby of Vietnamese refugees.
The movie, which opens in Singapore right this moment, envisions a world the place some individuals select to be irreversibly shrunk all the way down to the dimensions of toys to drastically scale back their residing prices.
Chau, 38, performs Ngoc Lan Tran, a feisty Vietnamese dissident who flees the nation after being forcibly shrunk whereas in jail.
The efficiency has made her the darling of critics this awards season. Some are predicting an Oscar nomination for her, following Best Supporting Actress nods from the Screen Actors Guild, Critics’ Choice Awards and Golden Globes (which she lost to Alison Janney in I, Tonya).
Speaking at a latest screening of the movie in Los Angeles, the actress notes that like her character, her dad and mom had no alternative however to make the perfect of a foul scenario.
Chau was born in a Thai refugee camp three months after her mom and father left Vietnam as boat individuals in 1979. The household then resettled in Louisiana, the place they have been taken in by a sponsor household, however continued to expertise hardship and poverty.
Seeing what her dad and mom went by way of knowledgeable her character in Downsizing, she says.
“They came visiting right here they usually did not communicate the language they usually did not have a help system – we acquired over right here as a result of we had a sponsor household in New Orleans and we weren’t associated to them in any respect.
“The father of the sponsor household was a butcher, so my dad, out of obligation, went to work as a butcher with him, despite the fact that that is not something that he wished to do. My dad and mom had a espresso store in Saigon earlier than they came visiting.
“So, you do things out of necessity and not so much by choice.”
Chau has not had the simplest experience by way of her profession, both.
She had no appearing auditions for a 12 months earlier than she lastly landed the half in Downsizing. This is simply her second big-screen look after enjoying a massage-parlour employee in Inherent Vice (2014), which adopted a string of bit elements on tv.
She is getting glowing notices for her appearing, however some critics are taking challenge with the truth that her character in Downsizing speaks damaged English with a thick Vietnamese accent – that is generally the punchline. One reviewer known as it a “racist caricature”.
Chau – who speaks excellent English with an American accent – has defended her determination to voice the character this fashion, saying she primarily based it on the Vietnamese refugees she had grown up round and for whom English was not a primary language.
She additionally needs to make clear that the character’s steeliness isn’t a by-product of Vietnamese tradition, however quite the refugee expertise.
“Lots of people, after they describe my character to me, say, ‘Oh, she’s harsh and fiery. And I really feel like lots of people assume that that is innate to the tradition, and it is not. You kind of develop these issues due to all of the tumultuous occasions that have occurred in your life and possibly a number of violence and internalised trauma.
“So, it’s about something much deeper and more profound.”
Alexander Payne – the thrice Oscar-nominated director behind Nebraska (2013), Sideways (2004) and The Descendants (2011), for which he gained the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar – praises Chau’s interpretation of the character.
“There’s a madcap quality to Hong’s performance that I like very much – it’s a little Lucille Ball-ish,” he says.
The 56-year-old film-maker has directed veteran stars corresponding to George Clooney, Jack Nicholson, Kathy Bates and Bruce Dern to Oscar-nominated performances, however says that regardless of Chau’s comparative lack of expertise, she wanted “relatively little direction”.
“The factor about her is that from the primary audition, even earlier than she met me, she had learn the screenplay and clearly understood it.
“Then, with the character, she understood the rhythm of the dialogue, the nature of the comedy and also the pathos. And how to go nimbly from one to the other.”
While the premise of the story appears firmly within the realm of science-fiction or fantasy, Payne believes that miniaturising individuals could also be one of many few methods to handle a few of the greatest challenges going through mankind.
He and co-writer Jim Taylor “are convinced that ‘downsizing’ is the only solution for overpopulation and climate change”.
The film’s sturdy political overtones are deliberate. But whereas they appear like a pointed commentary on the problems of right this moment, the pair started writing the screenplay a decade in the past, Payne says.
“We wished to have one thing with a political or social-satirical consciousness to it. Then 10 years glided by, the screenplay was arduous to jot down, we could not get financing and eventually did, and now, it is like, ‘Oh, your movie is so well timed.’
“Well, none of the elements is new. They’re just more potent now. Sadly, in 10 years, it’ll be more timely.”