“Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. Chu published an open letter in solidarity with Adele Lim, one of the film’s two screenwriters who decided to leave the sequels after being offered significantly less pay compared to her co-writer.
It’s unclear when exactly Lim left the project, but the situation reportedly stalled the production of Chu’s back-to-back sequels based on the second and third books in Kevin Kwan’s best-selling trilogy.
In a Twitter post on Monday, Chu stressed that he will always believe in Lim, whom he had hand-picked to join Peter Chiarelli — a “White-guy writer” — to provide “a female point-of-view” in the first film.
“For those of you who are asking, you bet your a** I stand with Adele! I believed in her before we ever shot the movie and believe in her beyond,” Chu wrote. “As many of you can imagine, negotiations are tough and more often than not messy — no matter who you are in this industry.”
Lim reportedly declined to work on the sequels after receiving a starting offer of “$100,000-plus.” Chiarelli, on the other hand, was offered $800,000 to $1 million, sources told the Hollywood Reporter.
“When I discovered she was unhappy with the initial offer, the producers, myself and studio executives leapt into action to ensure we got to a place of parity between the two writers at a significant number. It was both educational and powerful to hear all facets of the debate,” Chu added.
Lim, who has never penned a film until “Crazy Rich Asians,” was told that the figures are established, industry-standard ranges based on experience. After she left, producer Color Force spent five months looking for other Asian writers, but eventually returned to her with an offer closer to Chiarelli’s.
“Unfortunately by the time we came up with several different ways to satisfy everyone’s needs, a lot of time had passed and she declined the offer. These things happen in negotiations, and I’m proud that she was able to stand up for her own measure of worth and walk away when she felt like she was being undervalued,” Chu noted.
Chiarelli, who became known for writing Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock’s “The Proposal,” reportedly tried to convince Lim to stay by offering to split his fee.
“Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the White-guy writer,” Lim told THR.
“If I couldn’t get pay equity after CRA, I can’t imagine what it would be like for anyone else, given that the standard for how much you’re worth is having established quotes from previous movies, which women of color would never have been [hired for]. There’s no realistic way to achieve true equity that way.”
In his post, Chu, 39, went on to share that he had experienced something similar himself. He also vowed to work with Lim again and “respect the hell out of her.”
“I have experienced this several times in my years of making movies trying to keep a creative team together on budgets both big and small. It’s always heartbreaking and never fun. I will work with Adele in the future and respect the hell out of her. She was my sister and co-conspirator all the way through the film.”
Chu pointed out his frustration over the fact that the next movies will continue without Lim but called on the public to not take it out on Chiarelli.
“I agree with Adele that parity for women and people of color is crucial to the continued enlightenment of our industry and we still have a long way to go. What I discovered personally through this process is there are still things to debate amongst ourselves (like value of experience vs. lack of opportunity, TV vs. film writing, work experience vs. life experience, creative contribution valuations, etc.) which I am sure won’t be simple answers but I know we must try to figure it out to keep the needle moving.
“What I do know is we, as a community, should not go after my friend Pete Chiarelli in our movie. He wrote two drafts of the script months before I ever joined with Adele, and came back to work on the movie right before we started shooting. He is a good man, a creative force, and has been a pro in the business for many many years, doing many uncredited re-writes (as those in the industry know go to only the most trusted writers). He is not the author of the film in the end, Adele isn’t the author of the film in the end … and certainly I am not.
“We did this together along with many people from the producers, the cast, our editor, our production designer, Kevin Kwan, our sound team, our music team and many many more.”
The director concluded his post with an open invitation to Lim.
“The door is always open for Adele and if there’s another shot at making it work I know we are all for it but that’s a personal and private conversation between ourselves.”
For those of you who are asking… pic.twitter.com/1SoFLrUBbF
— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) September 9, 2019
Ahead of Chu’s letter, Lim responded to messages of support that have poured in her direction after news of her exit broke out.
“It’s been a week. My gratitude to the countless people who voiced their support. To people going through their own fight — you are not alone. Also, I have only love for @jonmchu and the cast & crew of #CRA. It was/is a movement and I’ll always root for its continued success.”
It’s been a week. My gratitude to the countless people who voiced their support. To people going through their own fight – you are not alone. Also, I have only love for @jonmchu and the cast & crew of #CRA. It was/is a movement and I’ll always root for its continued success ❤️
— Adele Lim (@adeleBlim) September 8, 2019