Everything Everywhere All At Once Had A Plan B For Being Rejected By Michelle Yeoh

If you've seen Daniels' new film "Everything Everywhere All at Once" (and if you haven't, it hits wide release on April 8, 2022), you'll know just how vital Michelle Yeoh is to the movie. Yeoh's role of Evelyn Wang is one of the most complex leading parts in recent memory, requiring the actress to play not just different facets of her character throughout the film's sci-fi anime-style multiverse, but to be able to handle a variety of tones, languages, and levels of physical prowess — everything from martial arts to riding on someone's shoulders to wearing hot dog fingers.

Given Yeoh's extensive experience as a performer, appearing in everything from martial arts adventures to holiday-themed romantic comedies, it would seem like "Everything Everywhere" couldn't have been made without her. That's precisely the conundrum Daniels (otherwise known as Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert) faced when they were getting their movie off the ground.

Where most filmmakers in such a situation find themselves simply casting another professional actor as their second choice for a leading role, the Daniels quickly came up with a bizarre, innovative and extremely risky plan B if Yeoh couldn't make the movie, one that speaks to their innovation and fearlessness (not to mention their sense of humor).

A casting idea very, very close to home

Directors and writers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert have worked in the independent film space for the bulk of their careers, and "Everything Everywhere All at Once" was to be no exception. Given Michelle Yeoh's recent mainstream Hollywood success with films like "Crazy Rich Asians," there was a possibility the production would not be able to work out a deal with her. Scheinert observed in an interview with THR that if Yeoh couldn't be cast "you'd have to make [the film] for five percent of the budget with some unknown person."

After some thought, the Daniels came up with "our plan B": according to Kwan, they would "cut the budget to 10 percent of what it was and cast my mom." The fact that Kwan's mother is the complete opposite of a professional actor was not a deterrent to the directors — on the contrary, the notion only appealed to them more as they continued to flesh out this idea. As Kwan explained, "we proposed it as a joke to our manager and our manager groaned, and then we started getting really excited about it."

Scheinert could see a vision of "Everything Everywhere" that leaned into this idea, observing that "the whole movie would be this weird performance art piece about a woman being in a movie on accident." Indeed, one of the joys of the film is how Evelyn is an Everywoman character suddenly thrust into a series of accelerating, expanding circumstances that she must contend with, and casting not only an unknown but an amateur actor would only heighten the contrast. As Scheinert elaborated at The Playlist, Evelyn would become a character "dragged into an action movie with like celebrities around her."

The casting would also provide some added resonance to the movie's themes of family, making an implicit familial connection explicit. Scheinert saw the meta-comedy possibilities extending to the making of the film itself, which he believes "would be Dan Kwan spiraling" as the duo attempted to direct his non-actor mother. However, Scheinert "would've worried for [Kwan's] mental health" too much, not to mention the mother's, meaning that, despite the kookiness of the idea, the plan wasn't ever taken too seriously.

Michelle Yeoh says yes — and changes the film

Fortunately for Kwan's mental health and his mother's lack of acting experience, Yeoh ended up saying yes to "Everything Everywhere All at Once," awarding the Daniels their first and only choice for the movie.

Even the mere idea of having Yeoh in the lead changed the movie as early as the screenwriting process. As Kwan revealed to Flickering Myth, the duo knew that the main character "was always gonna be an older person," but they made a major change during scripting when the concept of Yeoh as the lead occurred to them, and they "shifted from the husband to the wife as the main protagonist" as a result. "From that point, it was written for Michelle Yeoh," Kwan confirmed, telling /Film that they wrote it "almost like a prayer to the universe."

While there are numerous actresses who can carry a film like this, Yeoh's particular talents and their specific value to "Everything Everywhere" would be difficult to match. It's not just the action scenes, but "the drama, the comedy, the physical humor" are all important components to Evelyn, in Kwan's estimation, with the director observing that "there's no one else that can do all those things, at least in my head." Even just "having the weight of Michelle Yeoh" in such a scrappy weirdo sci-fi indie movie "completely changes" the film, the actress' history, and prestige lending it more credibility.

Still, it's the fact that Kwan and Scheinert would even consider such an off-the-wall idea like casting Kwan's mom in a leading role that speaks to how special the Daniels are as filmmakers. Since "Everything Everywhere All at Once" revolves around a multiverse of infinite possibilities, it's fun to imagine that somewhere out there in a parallel realm exists an A24 action/sci-fi/comedy starring a director's non-actress mother that's about a woman finding herself trapped in a big, weird movie. Given the success of the film so far, maybe it's an idea that could even exist in this universe ... as a sequel.