Short Round — Indiana Jones’ fast-talking 11-year-old Chinese sidekick — was an incredible character on the pages of the screenplay for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but finding a kid talented enough to do the part justice was not easy. The production held casting calls all over the globe (including Toronto), but did not find their man, er, kid.
With production scheduled to start in a little over three weeks, the increasingly desperate producers put on a massive open casting call at an elementary school in Los Angeles and asked the teachers at the school to encourage any kids who might be right to audition. One teacher was convinced a student of hers was perfect. The boy — who was born in South Vietnam to parents of Chinese descent — agreed to stay after school and audition. There was only one problem: the boy normally walked his younger brother home after school, so his little brother would have to tag along to the audition too. The boy probably hoped his younger brother would sit and wait quietly, but that’s not what happened.
The boy’s younger brother, Ke Huy Quan, said at the Niagara Falls Comic Con, “So as he (Quan’s brother) was auditioning for the casting director, I was off to the side, giving him notes, giving him directions like a director, actually. And the casting director saw me and asked me, this precocious kid, if I wanted to give it a try.”
Quan — who had never seen a Steven Spielberg film — wasn’t intimidated one bit and quickly said yes. His audition must have gone well, because the next day Spielberg sent a driver to pick up Quan.
Quan said, “At that time, my mom didn’t know what this was all about, she thought it was some important meeting, so she put me in this three-piece suit with a little gold chain and a vest and everything.”
Upon arriving at Spielberg’s office, Spielberg told him to come back the next day in jeans and a T-shirt. Quan did as told, and when he returned, he met Spielberg (the director), George Lucas (the producer), and Harrison Ford (Indy, of course). “We spent an afternoon together, and three weeks later I was on a plane to Sri Lanka, and it was one of the greatest adventures of my life.”
What did Quan’s brother think of all this? It turns out he was happy for his brother because he never wanted to be an actor anyway, and he was excited to play with the U-Haul’s worth of Star Wars toys Lucas sent over for the Quan boys to enjoy.