202206 03 1By Greg Hugh | June 2022

Last month, veteran actor James Hong received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, making history as the oldest person to accept the honor at 93. Located between Madame Tussauds Wax Museum and the TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, Hong’s star became the 2,723rd star awarded on the Walk of Fame.

In 2020, Daniel Dae Kim started a petition and crowd-funding campaign to get Hong his star. The $55,000 needed to obtain the star was raised in four days and, coincidentally, was  awarded during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Hong, the ubiquitous veteran character actor who found a champion in “Lost” star Daniel Dae Kim, accepted his fan-funded star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame in a burst of drums, cymbals and Chinese lion dancers — all harbingers in Chinese customs and traditions of joy and good fortune.

Kim and Hong’s “Everything Everywhere All at Once” co-star Jamie Lee Curtis joined him for the ceremony, CBS News reports. Congress member Judy Chu (D-Calif.) presented a proclamation at the ceremony and Council member Mitch O’Farrell, granted him an elaborate, hand-lettered proclamation from the City of Los Angeles.

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  L to R: Daniel Dae Kim, Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis

Noting that he had no speech planned, “because I’m not that kind of person,” Hong said he preferred to enjoy seeing familiar faces and take in the moment as it happened.

Hong was born in Minneapolis to Chinese immigrant parents, Variety reports. When he was 5, his father moved the family back to Hong Kong for a few years. Hong had to learn English all over again when he returned to America.

He began studying civil engineering at the University of Minnesota before being drafted into the Korean War. When he returned, he continued studying civil engineering at the University of Los Angeles.

Hong had always enjoyed performing in junior high school and high school, Variety reports. In Los Angeles, he began to pursue his love of performing.

In the early days, there were no opportunities whatsoever,” he told Variety. “Opportunities were very few and Asians were still looked down upon as this silent minority. In a sense I feel I was born too early, because there were no chances.”

Hong began creating more opportunities for Asian Americans by starting a class for Asian Americans at the Desilu Playhouse. He also led protests against poor representations of Asian Americans in Hollywood, like the 1962 film “Confessions of an Opium Eater.”

According to CBS News, Hong has appeared in multiple films that were nominated for the best picture Oscar, like “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” “The Sand Pebbles,” “Chinatown” and “Bound for Glory.” He voice-acted in “Kung Fu Panda” and “Mulan.”

Hong’s most recent acting project is the critically acclaimed film “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the directors of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” praised Hong’s talent and professionalism.

“There are a million things you could say about James Hong and the experience of working with him,” they told Variety via email. “But the most striking thing to us was how, after almost a century of being in this industry, he still hustles harder than anyone we know, how much he still cares about the work he is doing, and above all, how hard this man still loves to party.”

Hong was the subject of a three-part series that appeared in ChinaInsight back in 2009 (October, p. 5; November, p. 5; and December, p. 6) when he visited Minneapolis to attend the 1947 Class Reunion of Central High School. These articles are available at www.chinainsight.info/past-issues.

 

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