Raise a glass of Mountain Dew to Yuh-Jung Youn, who just made Oscar 2021 history.
Brad Pitt, who was also a producer on her acclaimed indie film, presented the Best Supporting Actress award to the scene-stealing “Minari” star — after referencing her love of Brit actress Maggie Smith and American auteur filmmaker Robert Altman.
“Mr. Brad Pitt, finally nice to meet you — where were you while we were filming in person?” the 73-year-old thespian said before a moving speech that referenced how she usually watched the “far away” program from her home in Korea. “Let me pull myself together, OK? Thank you to the academy members who vote for me.”
The “mommy who works so hard” went on to thank her “wonderful ‘Minari’ family,” especially Oscar-nominated “captain and my director” and screenwriter Lee Isaac Chung.
She ended by saying, “I’m not believing in competition” — and gave special, heartfelt praise to fellow ma-maw — an eight-time nominee and zero-time winner — Glenn Close, who was nominated for her polarizing granny performance in “Hillbilly Elegy.”
With her golden statuette, Youn became the first Korean actor to win an Academy Award — and the first Asian performer to receive an acting award since 1985, when Haing S. Ngor took Best Supporting Actor for “The Killing Fields.”
The first and last time an Asian woman won an Oscar for acting was in 1958 when Japanese actor Miyoshi Umeki won for her supporting role in “Sayonara” opposite Marlon Brando.
Youn stole every scene as the feisty, Mountain Dew-chugging, wrestling-loving grandmother of “Minari” — along with award-season darling Alan Kim, whose character David passed off his own pee as Grandma’s favorite soda.
Chung’s acclaimed semi-autobiographical film is the story of an immigrant Korean-American family that relocates to Arkansas to pursue dad Jacob’s (Best Actor nominee Steven Yeun) aspirations of starting a family farm.
Youn faced stiff competition from perpetual Oscar bridesmaid Close and presumed front-runner Maria Bakalova, who more than held her own opposite Sacha Baron Cohen (and Rudy Giuliani) in the “Borat” sequel. But momentum was on Youn’s side: She became the first Asian winner in any individual motion picture category at the SAG awards, and the first Korean actor to win a BAFTA award.
“Every award is meaningful, but this one, especially [to be] recognized by British people, known as very snobbish people, and they approve [of] me as a good actor,” the septuagenarian said, much to the delight of presenter David Oyelowo. “So I’m very, very privileged and happy.”
While Youn may be a “newcomer” to American audiences, the legendary actress is often referred to as the “Meryl Streep of South Korea.”