"They say stories like this only happen in the movies," a tearful Quan told the Oscars as he accepted his award for best supporting actor in the anarchic sci-fi drama Everything Everywhere All At Once.
"I cannot believe it's happening to me. This is the American dream."
His is a story that would be hard to believe if it was the plot of a film.
As a child, Quan moved from Vietnam to Hong Kong as a refugee, then settled in the US.
He got an audition by accident to play Chinese pickpocket Short Round in 1984's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, then starred as gadget-loving Data in The Goonies the following year.
But as he grew up, the roles dried up, and he settled for working behind the scenes as a stunt co-ordinator and assistant director.
Inspired by watching Crazy Rich Asians, he decided to have another go at pursuing his dream of acting as he approached the age of 50.
An agent friend agreed to represent him - and two weeks later Quan received a call about Everything Everywhere All At Once. That film would provide him with his second big break and his first Academy Award.
"My mom is 84 years old and she is at home watching. Ma, I just won an Oscar!" he said, overcome by emotion, kissing his golden statuette and holding it aloft.
"My journey started on a boat. I spent a year in a refugee camp and somehow I ended up here on Hollywood's biggest stage."