Saturday, November 19, 2016

'Crazy Rich Asians:' Extra effort in casting could break barriers

Director John Chu


IN A WIDE-RANGING and extensive interview with Entertainment Weekly, director Jon Chu of Crazy Rich Asians talked about casting an all-Asian cast and his need to explore his Asian American identity.

“When I was finishing Now You See Me 2, I remember thinking about exploring the Asian/American identity side of my brain. I’ve never fully explored that as an artist. I went to Beijing several times to meet with companies to try to see, like, is there a story out there to explore that side of me?”

His sister had encouraged him to read Crazy Rich Asians. He found it to be a page turner, one he couldn’t put down. He knew right then and there, “he had to do this movie.”

“It’s a movie that speaks to my identity as an Asian and that struggle of figuring out who I am and where I belong, and it deals with what my family went through, what my mom and my dad from mainland China [went through], so all the struggles I’ve experienced are in this book in a fun way, not in some sort of lecturing way.”
Now that he has the job as director, one of his tasks will be to finding an all-Asian cast and the all important male lead. He plans to search in the far corners of both Asia and the United States and go way beyond the traditional Hollywood casting call.

“We know that we’ve seen a lot of people who are working right now, we’ve seen a lot of overseas Chinese actors, but who are the people we are missing? Who are the unknowns, the undiscovered, that we need to find? Because there’s no structure for those people, and they haven’t had these kind of roles, so they may not even be represented yet. We’re trying to dig deeper and find that next round.

“A lot of the big agencies don’t necessarily know where to find the big, hunky Asian actor that could be (Crazy Rich Asians' male lead) Nick that has that charming, leading man thing. Maybe they’re in theater and haven’t crossed over yet. Maybe they’re doing commercials and haven’t crossed over yet.”

You can read about the extra time Warner Bros is willing to take to find the right actors, the lobbying effort Chu launched to get the job as director, and the discussions Chu had with Warner Bros. about diversity and Asian representation in the full interview with Chu in Entertainment Weekly.