Saturday, April 28, 2018
By LINDSEY BAHR
AP Film Writer
It’s been 25 years since a major Hollywood studio released an English-language film with a primarily Asian cast. The last was Wayne Wang’s adaptation of the generational tear-jerker “The Joy Luck Club,” which was released in 1993.
But that dry spell is about to end with the release of the opulent romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians.” The film is based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling book about a Chinese-American woman who gets a culture shock when she meets her boyfriend’s family in Singapore.
Veteran producer Nina Jacobson said that when she and her Color Force partner Brad Simpson (“The Hunger Games”) read Kwan’s manuscript, they knew it had to be a movie.
“We just tore through it,” Jacobson said. “It was so specific that it became really universal: Anybody who has ever faced in-laws who felt that they were not worthy of their beloved.”
However, they knew the film would likely never survive the studio development process. They decided to have a vision, a script and a budget to sell as a package before going to the marketplace. Warner Bros. would ultimately sign up to partner with them and release the film.
“Hollywood has done a bit of a disservice by not taking us into these worlds that we’re just now seeing between ‘Black Panther’ and things on TV,” Simpson said. “There is a hunger for not just token representation but to really dive into the world of different ethnicities and races.”
Meanwhile, Jon M. Chu, who would eventually sign on to direct “Crazy Rich Asians,” was hearing about this new book from family members. And he understood why. His last name is the same as that of the main character, Rachel Chu, and they’re both from Cupertino. There’s even a reference to his family in Kwan’s book.
Chu brought on Malaysian-born screenwriter Adele Lim to give the script an Asian specificity and set off to assemble his dream cast. The worldwide search had casting directors looking in Canada, New York, Los Angeles, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, London, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia.