The minds behind Warner Bros. upcoming romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” have more than the normal success or failure risks at stake for the feature film. They made great sacrifices to ensure that the mostly Asian cast could be seen on the big screen as an example to both Hollywood and the youth.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Kwan, who wrote the best-selling novel for which the film is based, and director Jon M. Chu were faced with a nearly impossible decision when it came to producing the upcoming film.
Warner Bros. offered to make it, but streaming giant Netflix came back with a counter-offer that would reportedly give them full creative control, a guaranteed trilogy and a massive seven-figure immediate payout to the stakeholders.
While the Netflix offer was clearly better, it lacked one key thing, the goal they both had to portray Westernized-Asians in a theatrical film release.
"Maybe we donate a percentage of our extra income to great causes," Chu recalled discussing with Kwan.. "But where does that money go? Right back to trying to get to this position of getting us [Asians] on the big screen.”
He continued: "We were gifted this position to make a decision no one else can make, which is turning down the big payday for rolling the dice [on the box office] — but being invited to the big party, which is people paying money to go see us."
For those unfamiliar, “Crazy Rich Asians” shares similarities with “Meet the Parents” and other comedies about meeting a significant other’s parents. When a woman is invited to a wedding in Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family, she discovers that he’s the heir-apparent to a massive, “crazy-rich,” fortune. The couple then has to face the uphill battle of impressing his relatives enough for them to give their blessing to their relationship. It’s been described as a classic, internationally accessible story that just-so-happens to star an all Asian cast.
While other movies starring an Asian cast have reached mainstream success, such as “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Crazy Rich Asians” is a contemporary story about issues that anyone can relate to.
“Fresh off the Boat” star, Constance Wu, who stars in the upcoming film, wrote a letter on Twitter addressing the “historic” nature of her role in both the TV show and this movie.
"Suddenly with ‘Fresh Off the Boat's’ success, people were talking about the lack of Asian American stories. Why had it taken 20 years? Why hadn't anyone been talking about that lack before? Today, ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is heading into its fifth season as the first network show starring Asian Americans to reach syndication," she wrote. "That's truly historic."
Although “Crazy Rich Asians” doesn’t hit theaters until August 15, according to Variety, it’s already on pace to open at $18 million. While not necessarily a box office rocket, it’s not a bad projection for an original, non-sequel summer film.
Time will tell whether or not Kwan and Chu’s gamble will pay off financially, culturally or both.