There’s no doubt that this year’s Oscars frontrunner for best picture is not your standard awards fare.
Everything Everywhere All At Once is an existential exploration of relationships and love via a launderette, taxes and the multiverse, with themes of nihilism and absurdism thrown in for good measure.
The film’s writer-director duo, Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – known collectively as “the Daniels” – admit they knew it would be a lot for audiences to take in.
In fact, they told Sky News they were almost looking for a tipping point.
“We thought there would be the people who loved the movie and then for everyone else it would be like, this is too much,” said Kwan.
“Because we kind of made this movie as a stress test, to be like, how much can an audience member hold in their brain? How much can they experience before they give up?
“So we were expecting a lot more people to be like, ‘this was too much for me’ – and some people are saying it’s too much, and that’s fine, but this reception has been mind-blowing.”
The journey this film has been on has indeed been mind-blowing, with the Oscars coming almost a year to the day since its world premiere at the South By Southwest (SXSW) film festival.
From there it became a massive word-of-mouth hit, eventually becoming US studio A24’s highest-grossing film to date – taking more than £90m at the box office worldwide.
It has since gone on to sweep awards season – stars including Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan have already picked up gongs at ceremonies including the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards for their performances – and it looks set to continue that success at the Oscars, where it’s nominated for 11 awards and is the clear favourite to win best picture.
For Kwan and Scheinert, who started out making music videos together before their first feature Swiss Army Man – which featured Daniel Radcliffe playing a flatulent corpse (yes, really) – it’s been curious to see their work finding a completely new audience.
‘We’re used to the weirdos of the world’
“We’ve been making strange things our whole careers,” Kwan said. “It’s been over a decade of just us putting weird things onto the internet and seeing how the world reacts.
“We’re used to a very specific crowd who loves our stuff – you know, the weirdos of the world… and they just connect with it because they see us as weirdos and it’s a beautiful thing where they love it, it’s some of their favourite stuff they’ve ever seen.
“But then for everyone else, they’re like, ‘it’s not my cup of tea’. We’re used to that.”
Ke Huy Quan’s ‘wild ride’ of a comeback
Meet the woman who taught Austin Butler to move like Elvis
But he also admits many compromises were necessary during the making of the drama.
The filmmakers were mindful to tread a line in order to make this movie appealing to viewers, with certain scenes (not least one involving a sex toy), raising some questions.
Making the strangeness accessible
“[We asked ourselves] Okay, If we include the butt plug trophy fight scene, what percentage of our audience do we lose and is it worth it? There was a lot of bartering with ourselves, just being like, okay, selfishly, I want this, how many people are we going to be pushing away?” Kwan said.
“Because one of our barometers is always: can we show this to our moms? Which is a very funny thing to be asking ourselves when there’s so much vile stuff in our movies, but it is really important that we really want to make the strangeness accessible.”
Content wasn’t the only area of compromise – budget constraints also led to some difficult decisions about what could and couldn’t be included.
But Scheinert says there were some advantages to being somewhat constrained. “Sometimes the challenges really can be demoralising when you’re like, ‘oh man, we bit off more than we should have’. But a lot of times that process makes the movie so much better because it forces us to have conversations about like, ‘Does this matter’?”
Click to subscribe to Backstage wherever you get your podcasts
With the film’s release coming so soon after the pandemic changed attitudes to cinema-going, the pair say their intention was to make something that justified the extra length audiences go to in order to see a film on the big screen.
“This is a movie that if you have a short attention span, it doesn’t matter,” Kwan said. “If you want to just have a good time, this movie’s for you; if you want to just feel things and just feel catharsis, this movie has something for you.”
Oscars predictions – the films and stars we’re tipping for awards
The nomination that could change Oscars campaigning rules
“If you want to go with friends, leave the theatre and talk for a few hours at the bar, this is for you,” Scheinert continued.
“It is a love letter to all the reasons we like going to theatres – fight scenes are an obvious thing that people like in a theatre, but I love feeling uncomfortable in a theatre, I love hearing people around me get uncomfortable, I love seeing other people cry while there’s tears in my eyes – and I also love the movie Jackass and I love screaming, ‘oh no, no’, at the screen.”
You can watch the Academy Awards on Sunday 12 March from 11pm exclusively on Sky News and Sky Showcase. And for everything you need to know ahead of the ceremony, don’t miss our special Backstage podcast, out now, plus look out for our special episode on the winners from Monday morning.