He starred in some of the biggest movies of the past decade, but Remy Hii fled Hollywood when the pandemic started. Now he’s back in his happy place in a new role with the Sydney Theater Company.
He starred in Hollywood blockbusters and lived the actor’s expatriate life for a decade, but for Remy Hii, the stage for the Sydney Theater Company is coming home.
From Neighbors to Marco Polo on Netflix, Spider-Man: Far From Home and Crazy Rich Asians, the 35-year-old has had a diverse career, but live theater is his happy place, so opening the contemporary adaptation of Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall this week was a dream.
“It’s been seven years since I was on stage, and it’s something I try to get back to,” he tells Insider in between rehearsals.
“I started in the theatre. I went to drama school and was very theatrically based. I always thought I would have my career there and eventually I ended up in the film and TV route that kept me very busy.”
Pressure marked the starring role alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Tom Holland in Spider-Man: Far From Home, as well as in the 2018 breakout rom-com Crazy Rich Asians, both squeeze experiences for Hii, who moved to Australia from Malaysia at the age of eight.
With a role in ABC’s upcoming comedy-drama Aftertaste, Hii has settled back in Sydney for the first time in a decade due to the pandemic.
“I was in LA when the pandemic started and I started seeing the border closures and I thought, yes, this is happening,” he says.
“There was the panic buy that Australia had, but the big difference in America was that I remember seeing the long lines outside gun shops and that’s when I went, ‘I need to have a flight home’.
“You can’t shoot a virus.
“My parents were in South East Asia and also moved back to Sydney at the start of the pandemic and both my sisters moved to Sydney too, so it’s really special to be together.”
The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall follows Helen Graham’s mysterious arrival in the town of Lindenhope.
She has a young son in tow, but no husband in sight — a concept that so shocked English society in 1848 that Bronte’s sister — Jane Eyre’s Charlotte Bronte — tried to stop the book from being republished.
Hii plays Gilbert Markham, the protagonist and narrator in the novel who falls in love with Graham, played by fellow NIDA graduate Tuuli Narkle.
“The great thing about theater is that every night you get a chance to revisit this story, so another challenge is to keep it fresh and challenge yourself every day,” he says.
Hii was on 50 episodes of Neighbors between 2013-14 and says one of the saddest parts of the show’s ending is that it denies up and coming actors like him the perfect chance to cut their teeth.
“In shows like Neighbors and Home And Away, you’re never working,” he says.
“You are constantly on and you get so few takes. There is so little time that you have to arrive prepared.
“It doesn’t surprise me that so many alumni of those kinds of shows have become extremely successful abroad, because you can’t miss a moment. You have to be disciplined. And I’m excited to take that rigor to a place like Hollywood that really sets Australians apart.”
Roslyn Packer Theater until July 16