‘The Farewell’ Director Lulu Wang Resisted Pressure to Add a ‘White Guy’ Character

The Farewell” has been widely praised not only for its heartfelt story and great acting but also for the tremendous casting that made the film authentic.

However, director Lulu Wang recently revealed that the cast would have been different had she given in to the suggestions of the financial backers of the film. 

In an interview with IndieWire, Wang shared how multiple U.S. financiers recommended the addition of a “prominent white character” to the casting. 

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First still from THE FAREWELL, and this description of our film in the Sundance program is so damn beautiful… “A heartfelt celebration of both the way we perform family and the way we live it, The Farewell masterfully interweaves a gently humorous depiction of the good lie in action with a thoughtful exploration of how our cultural heritage does and does not travel with us when we leave our homes. Writer/director Lulu Wang imbues The Farewell with warmth and knowing wit, while the uniformly excellent ensemble cast (anchored by a breakout performance by Awkwafina) invites us to share this extended clan’s joy and sorrow—and to feel, for the length of this remarkable film, like a part of their family.”

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Hoping to have someone back her up with her original casting choices, the filmmaker reached out to a Chinese financier, but she ended up disappointed. 

“This Chinese producer was like, ‘You need a white guy in your movie,’” Wang was quoted as saying. 

Fortunately, she stood by her original plan as the film proved to be quite a success despite not including a major white character in it. 

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Last 72 hours has felt like 2 weeks. Beyond my wildest dreams. #thefarewell #thefarewellmovie

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When it opened in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles earlier this month, it set the 2019 box-office mark for best per-screen-average of $87,833.

The impressive amount also surpassed the $76,601 per location that Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Endgame” generated earlier this year.

“The Farewell” stars actress Awkwafina as a struggling artist, Billi, who travels from the U.S. to China to see her dying grandmother with stage 4 lung cancer. 

Wang earlier shared with the Huffington Post that she wanted to tell a story behind “a family that both feels very Chinese, but also still feels very, very American — and in a character that feels very, like, iconic New Yorker.” 

When she pitched her story to producers and executives, however, many tried to categorize it as either Chinese or American. 

It was producer Chris Weitz who saw Wang’s vision after hearing her share the story on an episode of “This American Life” in 2016. To help Wang realize her vision of incorporating the two cultures in the film, Weitz helped in securing its funding. 

The movie is currently on limited release slowly expanding to a few more markets until its nationwide launch on Aug. 2.

Featured Image via Instagram / thumbelulu

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