Many Asians and Asian Americans have waited all year for August to roll around — the month that “Crazy Rich Asians” gets released in theaters (on August 15).
As many eagerly wait until they can witness history being made with the first all-Asian cast in a Hollywood film since 1993 with the “The Joy Luck Club,” a recent profile by The Hollywood Reporter on the film’s creation has revealed several interesting behind-the-scenes points, including one part of the dialogue that could have been disastrous for the film.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “everyone was on the lookout for potential blind spots and cultural cliches” in the film’s writing. Constance Wu, who plays Rachel Chu in the film, convinced director John M. Chu to remove troubling dialogue that had her character boasting about never dating Asian men, referring to the problematic and toxic dating trend where Asian women denounce Asian men as an inferior dating choice. Fortunately, Chu heeded Wu’s advice.
The profile revealed several other fascinating points about the creation of the film:
— “Crazy Rich Asians” could have been a Netflix film. Kevin Kwan, the author of the novel for which the film is based on, turned down a “gigantic payday” from Netflix to keep the film in cinemas. “We were gifted this position to make a decision no one else can make, which is turning down the big payday for rolling the dice [on the box office] — but being invited to the big party, which is people paying money to go see us,” Kwan said. “I could have moved to an island and never worked another day.”
— ”Crazy Rich Asians” was almost made by Wendi Deng Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s ex-wife. Kevin Kwan explained, “She was the first person that came calling and, of course, she knows this world. She had a vision for the movie that completely jelled with what I saw.” The deal never went through because Deng got caught in her high-profile divorce from Murdoch at the time.
— One producer wanted to turn Rachel Chu’s character into a White woman. “It’s a pity you don’t have a white character,” one producer told Kwan. Fortunately, Kwan did not follow that producer’s advice.
— Constance Wu almost didn’t take the role of Rachel Chu because of her “Fresh Off the Boat” shooting schedule. A month after talks of her starring in the film fell through, Wu was on a flight and wrote John M. Chu an email. “I guess I was feeling dramatic or something. Dates are dates, and if those are unmovable, I understand. But I would put all of my heart, hope, humor and courage into the role. What all this could do means so much to me. It’s why I advocate so much for young Asian-American girls, so they might not spend their life feeling small or being commanded to be grateful to even be at the table.” John M. Chu was moved by the letter and pushed the film’s production by five months to get Wu in the role.
— It took a lot of tries before they found Henry Golding to be the film’s leading man, who Chu heard about almost through sheer random luck of being mentioned by an associate. Golding revealed, “Jon started following me on Instagram, and I was like [gasps], ‘What does this mean?’” Chu reached out to Golding through a mutual friend and Golding made a tape for a part he imagined could be in the film. Golding then flew 17 hours to Los Angeles to read with Constance Wu and then do a screen test just a few days after that. Golding, who had just gotten married, had to cut his honeymoon to Cape Town, South Africa short to make the trip. John M. Chu said after Golding’s try out, “He’s like John F. Kennedy Jr. in New York, cooler than any of these [other] guys we were reading, and he’s not even trying.”
— Michelle Yeoh knows what’s best for a kitchen. Yeoh was touring the set of what would be her character’s kitchen and spotted a packet of MSG. She pointed her finger and told Chu, “You can’t have that on the table!” Chu, however, said it’d be okay and that no one would notice. Chu then sent a snapshot of the scene to his father, who runs the famous Chef Chu’s Chinese restaurant in Silicon Valley. His father ignored the fact that Michelle Yeoh was in the picture and complained about seeing a packet of MSG in the background.