A24 Everything everywhere all at once is a mouthful to say. The film’s title is also the most succinct and accurate way to describe what co-directors Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – the Daniels – wanted to pursue with their latest feature film.

The film is an action epic, a love story, and a timely reflection on Hollywood’s current obsession with multiverses. But it’s also a Michelle Yeoh showcase, a murder mystery, and an exercise in thinking about what it might be like to have hot dogs for your fingers. While this degree of narrative dissonance is something most filmmakers would be inclined to avoid, when we recently spoke with the Daniels, they explained that a sense of existential chaos is an important element in understanding where It all came all at once and the truly universal message woven into his view of the multiverse.

The multiverse, like Michelle Yeoh, is having kind of a moment right now as a concept, and I wanted to hear from you both about your feelings about it as a narrative device outside of the comic book trappings, a lot of people might be more used to seeing it in it.

Dan Kwan: As filmmakers, the multiverse should scare us all. It’s anti-history when you think about it. When you learn to write screenplays, it starts with “what decisions do your characters make” because that’s how you build a character over the course of a movie. The multiverse posits that every decision you make doesn’t matter because every other version happens. It’s a slow watering down of why you should care about a movie. We were so excited to tackle this because we thought it was a challenge that we hadn’t seen anyone take on yet. Has anyone used the multiverse to really see what it’s like to be alive right now? That moment when you feel like 100 stories are hitting you at once, and you laugh, and you cry, and you’re confused, and you’re scared.

Daniel Scheinert: And you have FOMO on the 100 different places you could have gone to and the friends you could have visited, and what they’re all doing.

DK: One of the only ways to react to that is to become desensitized, and I think a lot of people have become desensitized. This film is almost a way for us to say: “We see you in this chaos. There may be a better way. Maybe we can find a way to exist in all this noise. So, yeah, I think it’s very different from what other people and other franchises are doing with the multiverse, conceptually, and I think audiences are going to really connect with it because of that.

DS: In our spare time, we love science, like articles and shoots and everything, and that’s what brought us to the multiverse more than any medium. The absurd speculative physics of this, and just reading all these theories and being like, “Oh, that’s terrifying.”

Let’s talk about that weird feeling – that noise and unease that a lot of people live with. Compared to when you started conceiving ideas for this film, how have your feelings and your relationship to this larger feeling changed?

DK: We started writing this in 2016 when Donald Trump started his campaign—

DS: When his campaign really started to succeed.

DK: Alright, not when he started, but when things started to get really confusing. That feeling kind of never stopped – it just intensified because after four years of this we had to go through an election and then we had to go through a pandemic at the same time. And now, of course, there’s everything happening in Europe.

I don’t think that feeling is that unique because I think life has always been chaotic, but we’ve never been this close to chaos before. It’s literally in our pocket every day. I hope this movie in some weird way, however chaotic it is, will connect with the audience because they recognize that life and relate to it.

The expression “love letter” is used often and very easily these days, because it sounds good and makes people feel good, but I had the impression that Everything everywhere all at once largely came from this type of space or mode of creativity. What does it mean to you to write a cinematic love letter? As easy as it is for fans to throw that phrase around, I’m curious to hear what you as filmmakers think of doing in this kind of artwork that ends up getting this response?

DK: I want to answer this question. I think it’s very unique. We haven’t had this one yet, and that’s a good question. The idea of ​​a love letter is really interesting because you’re right – it gets thrown around a lot. But when I think of my love letters, when I really love someone and write them, they’re not precious. They’re wild, and they’re, they’re inside jokes, and they’re filled with room for that person to grow.

I think a lot of cinematic love letters are so precious that they try to contain the thing and keep it the way it was – this still, static thing. I think what we did by accident was we created a love letter to Michelle Yeoh in which we gave her this space to grow, that’s what true love is, n’ is this not ? This movie was able to fit its entire past into a little pocket, but also, it just opens up the world and says “you deserve to show so much more of who you are and what you’re capable of.”

DS: It was never a conscious thing for our film to be a love letter to Michelle Yeoh. It just happened because we love it. [Laughing] But also, this film is a love letter to love 40 different things that are close to our hearts. In some ways, like me personally, I sometimes forgot until we were on set, all of the work that we were contributing to. Or the fact that like that, we’ve now pulled Jamie Lee Curtis into the orbit of this madness and brought Ke Quan back into the movies, and we were kind of focused on telling our story, and then, that was all of a sudden we turned around and were like, “Woah, what a crazy collection of things we love that have come together here.”

DK: Everything everywhere all at once is a love letter that we put in the blender, cut into a million pieces, burned, turned that ash into little tea bags, and then gave it back to Michelle. Honestly, I think “love letter” isn’t the right word anymore; it’s so much more than that. It’s just pure, real, sincere love. The day after the premiere, she was very emotional and really grateful to us, and it was a very emotional experience, to have someone like Michelle Yeoh open up to us in this way.

How do you think you grew, not just as filmmakers but as people during this production process?

DS: I’m like a different person than I was when I finished it last summer, and now that I’m releasing it, it’s like bringing that personal part of yourself to the world and talking about it. It changes us, and that’s part of the magic of making art.

DK: There are two stories I can tell, and I’ll try to be brief. But I changed so much because of that movie, not just while shooting that movie, but because of that movie. First, I started out single. I was just single shortly after college.

DS: You were in a relationship.

DK: I was dating, yeah, but now I’m a married person. I have a child. I have a house. We have planted fruit trees in our garden.

DS: The trees are bearing fruit now!

DK: I say! It’s incredible. But I have one foot in the character of Joy, the younger generation, and now I see myself in the character of Evelyn as a parent, and now I can fully see my film as a reflection of that experience of generational trauma, but also generational. love, like what it means to stretch back and forth like that.

What was the other story?

DK: Well, this movie is the reason I realized I had undiagnosed adult ADHD. While writing the film, we wanted to research ADHD, and I found out – five or six hours later, crying on my phone – that I had a reason why the first half of my life was so hard. I went to therapy and was diagnosed, and I’m so much better now because of this movie. Even in the week following the screening of this film, many people came up to me and said, for example, “Is this film about ADHD? Last night we did a Q&A. The moderator was like, ‘I got an adult history diagnosis for the last two years because of the pandemic, and I saw that in this movie,’ and I was kind of blown away that it was so obvious. I hope this film can be part of that kind of awareness, of the awareness movement around this particular mental illness or disability.

You mentioned the concept of generational love, which we don’t hear much about as we’ve started talking more about generational trauma. Tell me about your conceptualization of generational love and how it is used to ground such a great multiversal story.

DS: It became our guide early on, and we knew the movie was going to be about a family and we could throw crazy ideas at the wall. But the litmus test would be like, does this complete the journey of this family? A surprisingly odd array of things still complete this family’s story because they’re all distracted, and so anything that distracts them in a new and interesting way becomes a potential path.

I think one of the things about generational love that we achieved by doing that was empathy. We tried to relate with empathy how difficult it is for our parents’ generation to understand our generation. We tried not to oversimplify this idea by making an ode to the beauty when someone who grew up completely different takes the courageous journey of trying to understand and support someone so different from themselves.

DK: One of the things we realized is that we’re going to be old people soon. If progress is to happen, the older generation must be willing to listen, and hopefully they will listen the way they want to be listened to. And the younger generation will have to be kind and patient in the way they hope the next generation will be kind and patient with them. It’s obvious to say, of course, but it’s… I think it’s one of the hardest things a human has to do, and I hope this film creates a space for that. kind of a conversation because we’re in the middle of it right now. We need this kind of conversation.