Watch CBS News

Steven Yeun makes Oscars history as first Asian American to be nominated for best actor

"Minari" star Steve Yeun on portraying the American Dream
"Minari" star Steve Yeun on portraying the American Dream 07:04

History was made on Monday, as Steven Yeun became the first Asian American actor ever to be nominated for best actor for the Academy Awards. Yeun was nominated for his role as Jacob in "Minari," which picked up six Oscar nominations on Monday.

Yeun plays Jacob, a Korean immigrant who moves his family from California to an Arkansas farm in pursuit of his American dream. He was also nominated by the Screen Actor's Guild and Critics Choice Movie Awards for his role. 

The 37-year-old actor recently spoke about the film with CBS News' Tracy Smith for "CBS Sunday Morning."

Steven Yeun stars in "Minari," as a Korean immigrant who brings his family to a farm in Arkansas.  A24

"I read the script and I was blown away," Yeun said. "I was in tears. Seeing the words of how a life similar to mine could be put on a page was very liberating."

"And it left you in tears?" Smith asked. 

"Oh yeah. This thing continues to leave me in many, many tears. I've been crying throughout this whole process," he said.

Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung based the film, which was shot in Oklahoma over 25 days, on his own family's story. Chung was also nominated for best director and best original screenplay. 

While several have been nominated before him, Ang Lee and Bong Joon-ho are the first Asian directors to win the Academy Award for best director. Last year, Joon-ho's "Parasite" made history as the first non-English language film to win best picture in the 92-year history of the Academy Awards.

Yeun's best actor nomination wasn't the only one to make history. Riz Ahmed, who starred in "Sound of Metal," was also nominated in the category. Their nominations mark the first time two men of East or South Asian descent were recognized in the same year, according to Entertainment Tonight

Before them, only three other East or South Asian actors were nominated in this category: Yul Brynner in 1956 for "The King and I," Chaim Topol in 1971 for "Fiddler on the Roof," and Sir Ben Kingsley, who was nominated in 1982 for "Gandhi" and then in 2003 for "House of Sand and Fog."

Also, Chadwick Boseman is posthumously nominated for best actor for his performance in "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," which already earned him a Golden Globe. 

This year's Oscar nominations have made even more history. For the first time, two women were nominated for best director: Chloé Zhao for "Nomadland," and Emerald Fennell for "Promising Young Woman." 

Last month, Beijing-born Zhao became the first woman of color named Best Director at the Golden Globe Awards. While several women directors have been nominated before, only one, Katheryn Bigelow, won the award.

Since Bigelow's win for "Hurt Locker" in 2006, only one other woman had been nominated for best director — Greta Gerwig for "LadyBird" in 2017.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.