Oscar nominee “Minari” came from a very personal place.
Star Steven Yeun is on the new cover of The Hollywood Reporter alongside the film’s director Lee Isaac Chung and producer Christina Oh, and inside the magazine, they talk about the inspiration for the movie.
“I’ve gone through a lot of disappointments in my career,” Chung says, “but then I went through a thing where I actually embraced how my life had gone, and that’s all embedded into [‘Minari’]. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about a person succeeding. It’s about a person being reborn outside of that success.”
Chung adds, “There was never a point where I thought, I’m going to do something Asian-American. The film wrestles with faith, and I’m a person of faith, but I never set out thinking, I’m going to make a film about faith.” In the same way, he says, “It’s more like, I’m going to do something personal and I am Asian-American, so that’s going to come about.”
For his part, Yeun is now the first Asian-American nominee for Best Actor at the Oscars, but he’s not exactly thrilled about the status.
“Sometimes a narrative around [identity] ensnares [you] and places [you] in a weird box that we have to then crawl back out of,” he says, adding that “Minari” also only presents “one facet of Asian America” and that “it doesn’t speak for all of it. It might even just speak for this one family, you know?”
Even with those conflicted feelings, though, Yeun says, “If I step out of myself and see what that moment [of being the first Asian-American nominee for the Best Actor Oscar] might mean beyond just me, it’s cool that we get to establish new ground and that young Asian-American kids can feel like this is possible for them, too.”