Whatever happened to Short Round from Temple Of Doom?

Ali Gray


For the most part, the stars of the ‘Indiana Jones’ movies are currently well accounted for. Harrison Ford continues to grump his way through movie roles; Kate Capshaw continues to be Steven Spielberg's wife; Karen Allen returned for 'Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull'; Jonathan Rhys-Davis found a second wind as Gimli in 'Lord Of The Rings'.

But what of 'Temple Of Doom''s secret weapon: Short Round? Since the one-two punch of 'Indiana Jones' and 'The Goonies' in 1984-1985, we've seen neither hide nor hair of him. With ‘Temple’ now 30 years old we asked ourselves: what became of Jonathan Ke Quan?

[The Goonies 2 on the way, says Richard Donner]

Born in Saigon in 1971 during the Vietnam War, Quan K? Huy and his family were selected for political asylum and emigrated to the United States. Quan attended high school in California where he went by the name Ke Huy and decided he wanted to become a child actor. Fortuitously, Quan accompanied his bigger brother as he auditioned for 'Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom', but ended up getting plucked out of the waiting room by casting producers. The role of "Shortie", pint-sized assistant to Dr Jones, remains a fan favourite – scroll through any chat board discussing a potential fifth Indy movie and it won't take long to find someone insisting on the return of a grown-up Short Round, now no longer short.



Indiana Jones producer Steven Spielberg – Quan called him "Bearded man #1" and director George Lucas "Bearded man #2" – loved working with him so much on 'Temple Of Doom', he suggested to pal Richard Donner that the child actor play the character of Data in 'The Goonies' the following year. A gadget-loving kid with a sense of adventure, it cemented Quan's status as an '80s icon. He didn't know it, but the much loved kids' classic was to be Quan's last major movie – at least, in front of the camera, anyway.

A period of obscurity followed, as Quan – now going by the name Jonathan – took regular roles in two little-known US TV series: first sitcom 'Together We Stand' with Elliot Gould in 1987, then 22 episodes of high school comedy 'Head Of The Class' in 1990. A role in direct-to-video Bolo Yeung martial arts movie 'Breathing Fire' did nothing to raise his profile, although the film's Wikipedia page does tantalisingly tease a scene in which "two adolescents battle kung fu midgets in a bar".

An episode of 'Tales From The Crypt' and a cameo in 'Encino Man' – known in the UK as 'California Man' – were Quan's last roles in the 20th century. He didn't act again for another decade until Hong Kong movie 'Second Time Around' in 2002, in which he played a gambler who lucks out in Vegas and searches for a time traveller who can set his fortune right. (Put it like this: it's not on Netflix). It was to be Quan's cinematic swansong.





The man who played Short Round, however, was really playing the long game – throughout his career as a child actor, he picked up skills that would later find him work in the movie industry behind the scenes. As a nipper on the set of 'Temple Of Doom', Quan studied Tae Kwon Do under choreographer Phillip Tan: something about the discipline of martial arts appealed to him, so he began studying several different techniques. Eventually, once his acting career had died down, Quan became an assistant fight choreographer to Hong Kong legend Corey Yeun on movies like 'X-Men' (for which he was also an uncredited stunt rigger) and Jet Li vehicle 'The One'.

Quan dipped in and out of the movie business in a variety of different roles over the years: some stunts on features here, editing on short films there, cinematography and editing one day, sound and foley work the next. But throughout all of this, Quan never lost touch with the two roles that made him famous: Short Round and Data. He's popped up in numerous Indiana Jones retrospectives over the years and has attended several fan conventions, most recently at the London Film & Comic Con in 2012, where several fans asked him if he was going to be in 'Indiana Jones 5' (his stock answer: "I don't know!").

He remains a shy and retiring man: now aged 42, the days of Short Round are well behind him. Quan is mostly referred to in the past tense (say, in 'where are they now' features such as this one) but prefers things that way. Recently, an idiotic – and quasi-racist – rumour spread across the internet that Glen from 'The Walking Dead' was played by the same guy who played Short Round (much like the false Wonder Years/Marilyn Manson myth you see every couple of years). And though there is a @JonathanKeQuan on Twitter who claims he's the real deal, it's unlikely the star of 'Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom' would be quite so invested in British pursuits like 'The X Factor' or Ant & Dec (although Quan did attend the University of Manchester, so you never know).



Most intriguing, however, is Richard Donner's recent announcement of a sequel to 'The Goonies'. It's long been known that a script has been written since at least 2010, but this is the first time Donner has addressed it – and he claims that Steven Spielberg himself came up with the plot. The stage could be set for Jonathan Ke Quan's return to acting; when Donner was asked which members of the original cast would be returning, he said: "Hopefully all of them." Quan has been involved in all of the Goonies anniversary re-releases (the movie turned 25 years old in 2010) and has kept close to Donner and screen pals like Corey Feldman, so it's entirely possible Data could yet be reloaded one day soon.