After the stresses of making ‘Everything Everywhere,’ Daniels get a little slap happy

One man peers through a screen door into a house while another pretends to climb through the doggie door for a portrait.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” writers-directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert stop at nothing to get the job done, even lengthy delays. “I learned patience,” Scheinert says. “And we’re still learning what we’ve made, through other people’s eyes.”
(Sinna Nasseri / For The Times)

When Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert talk about the years-long trajectory of their many-worlds melodrama “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” it seems clear that making movies is navigating a multiverse, too: the two-hour pitches to friends and multiple drafts; pushed-back starting dates spurring more rewriting; a packed 38-day shoot and granular postproduction process; then a seven-month waiting period before a stratospheric release that wowed critics, brightened box offices and culminated in 11 Oscar nods, including theirs for director.

“I’m like a different person now,” says Scheinert, sharing an IPA with co-nominee Kwan perched next to him on the couch of his East Los Angeles home. “I learned patience. And we’re still learning what we’ve made, through other people’s eyes.”


Like what Michelle Yeoh, Oscar-nominated for her heroically besieged laundromat owner/wife/mother Evelyn, once mused to the Daniels on set. “She said it was so thrilling and wild to take such risks and do this weird stuff,” says Scheinert. “And she’s had a career for 40 years.”

The actor is delighted she can finally be a little goofy on screen. She’s even happier that audiences accept her being funny.

Kwan says the finished film is a testament to what veteran director-actor Joan Darling taught them at a Sundance directors’ lab. “You’re not a general; you’re a party host inviting every cast and crew member on set to bring the best version of themselves to the party,” Kwan says. “It’s such a profound, beautiful, simple idea we brought to this movie.” He pauses. “Still, hosting a party is stressful.”

On a hard day of filmmaking, how do you guys cheer each other up?

Kwan: We start playing this game where we slap each other as hard as we can.


Scheinert: Usually not where everybody can see, you know?

Kwan: Not faces, it’s back, body, it’s like a sparring match to see who can slap each other more.

Scheinert: It’s usually one hit each, but it humbles us and gets you out of your head. Because there’s so much anxiety. It can make you quit sweating the small stuff.

A woman pushes her daughter and husband behind her in an effort to protect them in "Everything Everywhere All at Once."
Stephanie Hsu, from left, Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan in a scene from “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”
(Allyson Riggs / AP)

Now you’re experiencing all the big stuff. What’s an oddball moment from this past year that encapsulates it?

Kwan: Edgar Wright was kind enough to organize a screening in London, and we were so jet-lagged that when everyone was eating dinner, I went in the bathroom and tried to fall asleep, because I couldn’t sit up straight. And it was a concept restaurant, and every stall was shaped like an egg. So you go in this egg pod, and it’s playing ambient music with sound effects, so it’s actually perfect for sleeping. And after 20 minutes, I went straight to the post-screening reception, where I met Cate Blanchett, Margot Robbie, Simu Liu. So that was oddball and strange and really sums up the year.


Scheinert: And I’ll add some color. After he took a nap in the egg bathroom, we were in the elevator, and he still wasn’t quite awake, and we were both anxious. So we did the slapping game in the elevator.

Kwan: Oh … we did!

Scheinert: And the UK folks who were helping with the press tour were very freaked out.

Two men position their faces inside a picture frame as a large dog lounges on the couch.
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, perhaps feeling framed, get playful.
(Sinna Nasseri / For The Times)

Favorite problem-solving story from making “Everything”?

Scheinert: The decision to shoot in L.A. was a big discussion. It was months of budgeting out different areas.


Kwan: And no one shoots in L.A.

The actor has done horror, comedy and now crazy sci-fi action with “Everything All at Once.” She’s fine with all of it. “If I feel something, then I know I can perform it,” she says.

Scheinert: But Dan has a kid.

Kwan: A lot of our crew members have kids.

Scheinert: And we love our crew, we’ve been working with them so long.

Kwan: And when you travel out of state, you can only bring three or four key [crew members]. We realized, even though we know on paper going out of state means we have more [tax] incentives and the dollar will get stretched further, we knew our crew was going to be the thing that makes every dollar count, because they have more resources here, they’ll be more well-rested, and they’re going to understand us in a way that new crew members never would.

Scheinert: So coming up with a plan for how to do it here is one of the things I’m especially proud of.

Eleven nominations makes for a high likelihood of winning one. But right now, make up an Academy Award you know you’d win.

Kwan: The editing category, yes [we’re] very proud of it, but if it was the award for the most edits, we would definitely win.


Scheinert: No one else edited that much.

Kwan: Our colorist, Alex Bickel, was horrified when he got the project. He was like, “What? This one reel has more cuts than most movies!” We definitely crashed his machine a few times.

Two men pretend to be getting hoisted up the side of a house with a garden hose.
Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert joke around at Scheinert’s East Los Angeles home.
(Sinna Nasseri / For The Times)

After so much talking about the movie, is there an unsung crew member you’d like to recognize?

Scheinert: I wrote a thank-you letter today to our assistant on the movie. Sometimes I watch the end credits of a movie and I think, “Really? All those people needed assistants? You can’t do your own laundry?” But it was an exhausting movie. We shared an assistant, and James Wyatt also helped all these other departments. He was the funnel. James had really good vibes.

Kwan: Everybody loved James.

Scheinert: And if our assistant had been really stressed out, that would have been contagious. That would have been everybody’s first interaction with us. So I wrote him an email saying, “James, I’m so grateful to you, man.”


How sweet.

Scheinert: The trophy in the movie that Michelle Yeoh tries to keep the guy from putting in his butt? It says “James Wyatt.”

And how very Daniels of you, too.

Kwan: He’s going places. He’s a filmmaker and writer himself.

Scheinert: Yeah, he got a front-row film-school seat to everything. I was jealous of him at times.

“I’ve always had a predilection for the strange and the perverse,” the “Everything Everywhere” actor says. “The script actually made a lot of sense to me.”