Maverick Spirit Hong Chau



Film Info
Type of Film/Event:Big Event
Rating:Not Rated
Additional Info
Premiere Status:Bay Area
Production Country:USA
Cast/Crew Info
Cast:Hong Chau
Brian Dennehy
Lucas Jaye
Christine Ebersole
Jerry Adler
Director:Andrew Ahn
Producer:Celine Rattray
Trudie Styler
James Schamus
Joe Pirro
Nicolaas Bertelsen
Screenwriter:Hannah Bos
Paul Thureen
Music:Jay Wadley
Cinematographer:Ki Jin Kim


Award Presentation and Conversation with Ms. Chau Occurs with the Screening of Driveways. Go Here for Tickets.

March 7, 6:45PM at the California Theatre

It’s a well-known fact that diversity in America’s film industry is lagging far behind the reality of the country’s population mix. This state of affairs is particularly true for Asian-Americans. While there may be notable exceptions, Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell, for example, the dearth of projects and artists represents a huge loss for film art and the movie-going public. Though the breakthroughs are too few and far between, it’s always refreshing when a new talent emerges from obscurity to steady appearances on the screen. Actor Hong Chau is one such inspiring example.

Her Vietnamese parents fled the oppressive Communist regime and settled in Thailand where Chau was born later that year. Later, with help from a sponsor, Hong Chau and her family settled in New Orleans.  As newly arrived immigrants, her parents knew no English and were only able to acquire menial jobs. But their determination to create opportunities for their children to have better lives was unflagging and fierce. College for Chau and her brothers was always part of the plan.

After graduating from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, Hong ventured off to Boston University to study creative writing, but switched to filmmaking at her parents’ urging for something a bit more practical. While at BU, Hong also took up acting in attempt to overcome her life-long shyness. At the time, she had no illusions of it ever becoming more than a useful tool to become more outgoing.

With her degree from BU, Chau had a brief stint at PBS and the path to a career in documentary films seemed clear. But when she realized just how much she had enjoyed acting in student films and other shorts of friends and colleagues, she decided to move New York to give it a concerted effort. In 2006 she was cast in some small parts and encouraged to further pursue an acting life.

In 2010, her hard work paid off when she was cast in HBO’s limited series Treme. A sweet ironic twist to the job was the series brought her back to New Orleans. It also gave her the opportunity to work with David Simon (The Wire, The Deuce) one of the most acclaimed writer/directors in television. In this creatively charged environment she discovered Simon’s power of the ordinary. In Simon’s worlds, art emerges organically from selecting and focusing on the proper details, elevating the mundane to something exciting. In her role as Linh, Chau proved to be a quick and able learner.

Following her time on Treme, Chau’s luck with directors continued, as she was cast as Jade by Paul Thomas Anderson (Magnolia, There Will Be Blood) in his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s profound and comically profane novel Inherent Vice. Unfortunately, in spite of a stellar cast and mostly positive reviews, the public did not understand or embrace the film and it sank from sight. Inexplicably, after Inherent Vice, Chau couldn’t land a film role for nearly a year. But she continued to sharpen her acting craft in the Off-Broadway play, John and credits the experience with vastly improving her skills.

The true extent of Chau’s talent and skill shines through her character Ngoc Lan Tran in Alexander Payne’s 2017 film Downsizing. In the film, she plays a single, amputee who is “down-sized,” i.e. shrunk, as punishment for political dissent in Vietnam. The complexity of the character excited Chau and gave her the chance to dive into and peel back Lan’s many layers. “I have not seen a character like this, male or female, that has so much going on in terms of being funny and heartbreaking and heroic, but also needs help. Somebody who is spiritual, but also very practical and honest…” This time her performance was finally recognized with Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for Best Supporting Actress.

She credits her parents for instilling her with their work ethic which has brought her success. She is exceedingly proud that her parents’ labors of love have produced such rewarding results. Her success continues to grow, with leading roles (Driveways, American Woman) and significant supporting turns, currently as Lady Trieu in HBO’s Watchmen.

But for all her success, she remains acutely aware of the lack of film work for Asian-Americans. “In Hollywood, there’s not a lot of roles for Asian people. So a lot of it is waiting and waiting and waiting.” Luckily for the art of cinema and movie audiences, the only waiting now is to see what Hong Chau will do next. - P.D. Crane

Included Shorts

Driveways (0min) More