Jon M Chu tells us why Crazy Rich Asians makes for a perfect Valentine’s Day watch!
If you are staying in and planning a movie night with your special someone this Valentine’s Day, Crazy Rich Asians (2018) is definitely one stellar choice. The rom-com that stars Constance Wu and Henry Golding in lead roles is based on a 2013 novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan. The Jon M Chu directorial is also the first film by a major Hollywood studio (WB) to feature a majority of Asian actors since The Joy Luck Club (1993). The movie follows Rachel Chu (Wu), a Chinese-American professor who travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick Young’s (Golding) family, only to find out that he belongs to one of the wealthiest families in Asia.
One of the highest-grossing rom-coms of recent times, the film received several Golden Globe nominations, Critics’ Choice Awards and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Ahead of its premiere on Sony PIX on V-Day, we speak to Jon (director of Step Up 2, Now You See Me 2, among others) who tells us about making the film in Asia, casting the right actors and working with Kevin Kwan. Excerpts:
Do you think Crazy Rich Asians can be considered a modern-day fairytale?
I definitely see this as a modern-day fairytale. Rachel Chu is our princess/warrior that we haven’t had before. Yes, it’s a love story, a romantic comedy but at the same time it is about Rachel. It revolves around her experience of going to Asia, ‘her homeland’ for the first time and finding who she is. I always described it as the birth of the dragon within her because she goes in there as an American girl and comes out with an appreciation for her past.
Was Constance Wu your first choice to play Rachel Chu?
There was always one choice for Rachel Chu in my mind and that was Constance Wu. I’m a big fan of her work in Fresh Off The Boat, and also of what she does off-screen. It is also her tweets and writings that motivated me as a filmmaker to make a difference. I realised I had a power that I didn’t realise before to make something with an all Asian cast or with characters that can be played by Asian-Americans that were more than just the clichés. So, when I was chasing this, the person that spoke to me the most was Constance Wu.
What do you think of Henry Golding and his chemistry with Constance Wu?
We flew Henry out during his honeymoon. I told him that it would be worth it. He left his wife and came to read with Constance. She was reading with a bunch of different guys. So, it was very much like she was testing different guys to see who can handle it. You could feel the electricity between the two of them immediately. It felt like something that you would want to watch on-screen. I knew that the audience would fall in love with them. They are both so charming, they are both so compatible with each other and at the same time the energy was very palpable.
How was your experience shooting the film in Asia?
Everywhere you pointed the camera at, it was beautiful. Specifically, in Singapore. It felt like we were shooting a travelogue. And it looked like a town from the future, both culturally with the food and then also the giant modern buildings and the colonial buildings. With all these and the people there, it was a very unique blend in Singapore. It’s not just the Chinese but all sorts of cultures coming together. So we wanted to be able to point the camera anywhere and get a sense of that. It’s hard to describe what Singapore really is and that was really important for our movie.
According to you, what can one expect from this movie?
To be able to celebrate human beings in all their craziness and all their culture, wherever you come from. Ans the idea of the future — that the next generation is taking all these pieces from different influences and making it their own. The movie is Rachel’s journey and I think the audience will experience that as well as an amalgamation of an eclectic collection of music, visuals, characters. You will just have a blast.
How was it to work with Kevin Kwan?
Kevin Kwan is amazing. He wrote this book that became a worldwide sensation and so, turning it into a movie is no easy task. But he was the best creative partner to bring it to the screen. He let us do what we needed to do. He was not controlling and never got his hands everywhere trying to tell us what to do. He let us interpret it but at the same time, interjected when he needed to. He would let me know the style, the look and feel of the world we need to show – I mean, this is very much from his own life – so we used him a lot. He was fully accessible, there was no ego involved. He is one of the most supportive creative partners I have ever had.
Crazy Rich Asians will premiere on Sony PIX on Sunday at 9 pm.