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How Ke Huy Quan Landed His Life-Changing Role In Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom - Exclusive

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" star Ke Huy Quan was just 12 years old when he went to an audition that literally changed the course of his life — and it wasn't even his audition in the first place.

Quan, whose role in "Everything Everywhere" marks the first time he's stepped in front of a camera in almost 20 years, immigrated to the United States with his family in 1979 following their forced departure from Vietnam in the aftermath of that country's war. Four years after his family had settled in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, a local casting call was announced.

"Steven Spielberg and George Lucas [were] looking for an Asian kid to star alongside Harrison Ford in one of the biggest sequels in Hollywood," Quan tells Looper in an exclusive interview. "They went all over the place ... Hong Kong, Singapore, London, San Francisco, New York, searching for this kid and they couldn't find it. Just as they were about to give up on this role, the casting director said, 'Hey, I think we should give Chinatown in Los Angeles a try.' At that time, it was a really small community, and they held an open casting call in my elementary school. Talk about being at the right place at the right time."

As it turns out, however, Quan wasn't the one sent to try out for the role. "My brother went to audition, and I tagged along, and I was coaching him while he was auditioning," Quan recalls. "The casting director saw me and asked me if I wanted to give a try, which I did." What happened next would set Quan on a path that would alter his life forever — and put him front and center with filmmaking giants.

Working with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford was 'incredible'

Following the audition, Ke Huy Quan's family got a call from Steven Spielberg's office, which sent a car to their home to take little Quan to a meeting. "I walked in the room, and there was Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford," he says. "We spent an entire afternoon together. Three weeks later, I was on a flight to Sri Lanka, and it was the best adventure of my life."

Amazingly, off that first audition, Quan had landed the role of Short Round, Indiana Jones' sidekick in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom."

Quan says that his memories of making the film are "nothing short of spectacular," adding, "To work with the biggest freaking director, the biggest actor at that time in your first movie, was incredible. It was the ultimate dream for any actor ... They were so nice and humble and down to earth and friendly and welcoming, and extremely protective of me too, I remember."

Asked if Spielberg and Ford shared any advice with him, Quan replies, "Honestly, I learned so much from them, not only about movie-making, but also about how to be as a person, as a human being, because they are so kind, and they love and treat people with kindness and respect. They took really good care of me, and that experience was incredible."

After "Temple of Doom," Quan starred in "The Goonies" and several other projects before stepping back from acting in 2002 and working behind the scenes for the next 18 years, until a fortuitous combination of circumstances led him to "Everything Everywhere All at Once." But it was that first experience that started it all. "['Temple of Doom'] changed the trajectory of my life," he says proudly. "My life is better because of them. That's why, to this day, I am so grateful to Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and Harrison Ford."

"Everything Everywhere All at Once" is in theaters now.