Crazy Rich Asians author says Hollywood producer wanted to cast white actress as lead, not Constance Wu

FP Staff

Aug,23 2018 19:33:52 IST

Crazy Rich Asians has been hailed as a win for diversity in Hollywood for the first Tinseltown film to feature a majority-Asian cast for a generation has soared to the top of the North American box office.

In the wake of the success of the groundbreaking romantic comedy, adapted from author Kevin Kwan's bestseller about Singapore's ultra-rich Chinese elite, The Warner Bros. is in the early stages of developing a sequel.

Constance Wu in a still from Crazy Rich Asians. Image via Twitter

Constance Wu in a still from Crazy Rich Asians. Image via Twitter

However, when Kwan initially approached one of the Hollywood producers to make the film in 2013, he was reportedly asked to reconceptualise the story with a white actress as the lead. "I will option this movie if you are willing to change Rachel to a white girl," Kwan recalled what the producer said in an interview with NPR.

"This was way before the whole Hollywood whitewashing movement began, before all the waves of outrage that happened — justifiably so, with the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, things like that. So it was early days yet, and I knew that this movie would be a challenge because I knew it needed an all-Asian cast, and so I knew that a lot of traditional Hollywood would find it to be not a viable project, and so that's why I chose to go the team that I did. We thought we would really produce this outside of the studio system and it would be an independent film. ... It's taken on a whole other life that I never dreamed was possible," he added.

Crazy Rich Asians marked a milestone as the first film from a major Hollywood studio in 25 years to feature an all-ethnic Asian ensemble cast. It stars Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina and newcomer Henry Golding.

But, in much of Asia, it is not generating the same level of excitement as in Hollywood, where the Asian-American community has long been marginalised, and many in the region may well be wondering what all the fuss is about.

In Singapore, where much of the film's action takes place, there has predictably been considerable buzz, with many curious to see how local culture is depicted and happy that their tiny country is starring in a Hollywood hit. But some have been angered about how the film focuses primarily on the country's ethnic Chinese, who make up about three-quarters of the city-state's inhabitants. The country of 5.6 million, where the film is released Wednesday, is also home to substantial ethnic Indian and Muslim Malay minorities, as well as large numbers of expatriates.

In the film, Wu plays a New York economics professor who flies to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family only to discover it is one of the wealthiest in the country. The cast was drawn from Taiwan, Britain, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United States and Australia, along with Singapore.

The main cast also is expected to return for the sequel, The Hollywood Reporter said. The new film also will tell the story of Astrid, the cousin of Golding’s character, Nick, with a man named Charlie played by “Glee” alum Harry Shum Jr., Chu told the trade publication.

The plans for a sequel emerged as Singapore’s defence ministry said that author Kwan, also an executive producer on the Crazy Rich Asians film, is wanted for defaulting on his compulsory military service.

(With inputs from agencies)

Updated Date: Aug 23, 2018 19:36 PM