“Crazy Rich Asians” author Kevin Kwan said that before his book even hit shelves in 2013, one Hollywood producer came knocking on his door to make a film adaptation, but wanted to make one of the Chinese protagonists white.
In an Entertainment Weekly story, Kwan says that during an early meeting to discuss a film verion of his best-seller, an unnamed producer wanted to reimagine Rachel (who will be played by Constance Wu in the upcoming film) as Caucasian.
“That was their strategy,” he recalled. “They wanted to change the heroine into a white girl. I was like, ‘Well, you’ve missed the point completely,’ I said, ‘No, thank you.’”
Whitewashing the main character would have changed the entire storyline, Kwan said. After all, “Crazy Rich Asians” is about wealthy Chinese families living in Singapore.
It chronicles the adventures of a Chinese-American economics professor who joins her boyfriend for a friend’s wedding in Singapore, only to learn that the boyfriend is the heir to a massive fortune, entangling the professor in Singapore’s high society.
The film will be the first Hollywood studio movie with an all-Asian cast. Gemma Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Ken Jeong, Harry Shum Jr., Jimmy O. Yang and Sonoya Mizuno are starring in the film, which will be directed by Jon M. Chu.
Hollywood has faced major backlash in recent years when it comes to so-called “whitewashing” of characters previously envisioned as people of color: Scarlett Johansson was plagued with months worth of criticism for taking the starring role in “The Ghost in the Shell,” the remake of the classic anime franchise, which some saw as another example of an Asian character becoming Caucasian on screen to appeal to a wider audience.
Tilda Swinton faced a similar issue when she was cast as The Ancient One in “Doctor Strange.” When the film’s trailer hit the web, fans said casting Swinton was racist because the character was depicted in the comics as being Tibetan — and Swinton is a white British woman.
In August, Ed Skrein exited the “Hellboy” reboot after online outcry that the white British actor would play a character who was Asian in the comic books on which the film is based. Daniel Dae Kim was later cast in the role.
“Crazy Rich Asians” will hit theaters on August 17, 2018.