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Searching for Short Round: One man’s quest to find kids who auditioned to be Indiana Jones’ sidekick

CBC Docs CBC Docs

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Published 2 years ago

Thirty-five years after a fateful audition, one man goes in search of all the men who, as boys, auditioned to be Short Round in Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom. #CBCShortDocs #ShortRoundUp

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The year was 1983, and like many kids, Nobu Adilman wanted to become a famous Hollywood actor. There was one major problem: he was a half-Japanese Canadian kid. The only people that looked like him on screen were either kung fu masters, bad guys who got killed after seconds of screen time, or white people grossly playing Asian characters. But he had seen E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and needed to be Steven Spielberg’s best friend. He knocked himself out thinking about his life in the limelight.

And just like that, his prayers were answered: Spielberg was making the sequel to his epic Indiana Jones blockbuster, later (and forever) known as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And… Indy was going to have an “Oriental” (read: Asian — it was the ‘80s) sidekick; a “sassy”, “streetwise,” ass-kickin’ kid who would blurt out snappy one-liners and get to roundhouse-kick his way into pop culture history.

This was his golden ticket. But there were a few more problems.

Spielberg was embarking on an international call, with open auditions in major centres across North America (plus one in the U.K.) This meant major competition. Thousands of similarly wide- (slanty-) eyed, delusional children also saw this as their one-way ticket to stardom. And Nobu had no idea how to act.

But it didn’t matter. The moment changed his life. Thirty-five years after that fateful audition, Nobu Adilman went in search of all the men who, as boys, had also auditioned. Both funny and emotional, the adventure excavates a deep bond between strangers who once shared the same Hollywood dream. And, despite their collective rejection for the role of a lifetime, the conversations prove that endless positivity is created when more diverse people are included in the process of filmmaking. Even if they didn’t become Short Round, the experience changed their lives forever.

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