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Bong Joon Ho Eyes Oscar History for Steven Yeun as First Asian American Best Actor Nominee

“He’s an actor with incredible range,” Bong says about his "Okja" star.

Steven Yeun in "Minari"

Steven Yeun in “Minari”

A24

Bong Joon Ho is no stranger to making Oscars history. Earlier this year, the director’s “Parasite” broke the Academy Awards glass ceiling by becoming the first foreign-language drama to take home the top prize for Best Picture. “Parasite” was also the first South Korean film to win the Best International Feature category. With “Parasite” Oscar season behind him, Bong is now looking ahead to the 2021 Academy Awards where his “Okja” star Steven Yeun could break another Oscars glass ceiling by becoming the first Asian American nominated for Best Actor. Yeun is contention with his Sundance-winning, A24-backed immigrant drama “Minari.

“Obviously, it would be meaningful for Steven to be the first Asian American to be nominated,” Bong recently told Variety. “But before all of that, I would just like to congratulate him as an actor and an individual. The nomination would only prove his ability as an actor. If he’s to be nominated, I would congratulate Steven for his great performance in ‘Minari,’ and I think him being Asian American and the first to be nominated are secondary issues.”

Bong said Yeun is “an actor with incredible range,” adding, “Sometimes he feels like the guy next door while other times he carries this great sense of mystery and secrecy. In Lee Chang Dong’s ‘Burning,’ he really managed to capture the tension behind a mysterious and cynical character, and in ‘Minari,’ he provided a realistic portrait of a father bearing heavy burden on his shoulders. I think he’s a multifaceted actor with so many faces.”

As for Yeun’s personal thoughts on making Oscars history, the actor told Variety, “It’s probably a bummer that that is the case. This is a hard one for me. As great as it would be to set a precedent or be part of a moment that breaks through a ceiling, I personally don’t want to be ensnared by that moment, either. The truth that I’m trying to understand for myself is who I am, individually.”

“I’m happy to serve a larger moment for the community,” Yeun added. “And I’m happy to push narratives and show who we are because I am that, too. I am an Asian American and the pride I have for that is immense. But also, for me, it’s really about carrying my space and myself through this life and making sure that I tell it true from my perspective. But it would be awesome, and I hope that we can have many more of those and that it won’t be an issue moving forward.”

A24 is opening “Minari” in theaters February 12.

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