‘Crazy Rich Asians’ will make you root for love
Based on author Kevin Kwan’s book of the same name, “Crazy Rich Asians” is the first movie with an all-Asian principal cast to hit the big screen since “The Joy Luck Club” was released in 1993. Now in theaters nationwide, the movie is also the first ever romantic comedy to have Asian male and female leads in a Hollywood film, according to Kwan, who was in Boston last month promoting the film with supporting actors Gemma Chan and Jimmy O. Yang, who play the characters Astrid Leong and Bernard Tai in the film.
Kwan, who was involved from “soup to nuts” in the making of the film, said seeing his characters come to life is still kind of unbelievable to him. “I feel like I’m in a dream and these two people are just figments of my imagination,” he said. “I never, ever dreamed this would ever be possible, quite frankly. I never thought I would have a book. I never thought it would be a movie. Everything has been gravy since 2013.”
Directed by Jon M. Chu (“Now You See Me 2”), “Crazy Rich Asians” is a fun and entertaining film that will make you laugh and cry — and most importantly, root for love. The romantic comedy follows New Yorkers Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), traveling to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Excited about visiting Asia for the first time but nervous about meeting Nick’s family, Rachel is about to get the surprise of her life when she learns that not only is Nick heir to one of the countrys’ wealthiest family fortunes, he’s also one of its most sought-after bachelors. Being on Nick’s arm puts a target on Rachel’s back, with jealous socialites, and worse, Nick’s own disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh), taking aim.
The book “Crazy Rich Asians” debuted in 2013 and is the first in Kwan’s trilogy. The second and third are “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.” The characters are all based on “sort of very real people who do exist,” according to Kwan, who grew up in Singapore in a privileged and old-moneyed family.
“The books are very loosely inspired by my childhood, my frequent trips back to Asia,” said the author. “I felt like no one was telling a story about contemporary Asia. It’s the region of the world that’s fastest growing. It’s this dynamic region where people are living their lives very much ignoring what’s happening in the West by kicking ass and taking names. And no one’s writing about it, and showing that world in its reality, and so I wanted to do that.”
For Chan, who’s set to co-star in “Mary Queen of Scots” later this year and in “Captain Marvel” in early 2019, being a part of this film has been an incredible opportunity. “I read Kevin’s books when they first came out and I just loved these characters,” she said. “Yes, they happen to be Asian, but they were multi-faceted, complex characters not defined by their ethnicities. Sometimes they were glamorous, sometimes peaceful, but they were flawed. You know they weren’t perfect, but that’s what we’re like as human beings and I was just excited to read that — and now to be able to have that in a movie is great.”
‘Finding his creed’
Yang, a stand-up comedian by trade, is thrilled to have been cast in the film. The experience has been like “finding his creed,” he said, and meeting this group of fellow Asian actors, who hailed from Australia, the
U.K. and, Singapore, was really special for him — like a homecoming of sorts. “We all grew up with shared experiences,” he said. “Growing up Asian with a very demanding parent that wanted us to do something else, and all of us somehow ended up in this movie.”
Yang also found shooting in Singapore exciting. Serving as another character, Singapore captured the beauty and the authenticity of the story, as well as providing access to iconic locations that couldn’t be duplicated on a soundstage. For Yang, it allowed for total immersion and really helped the cast “to get into our characters and get to know about each other and develop that chemistry with everybody.”
After the shared experience of filming “Crazy Rich Asians,” author Kwan hopes that audiences will have a good time when they see the movie and that “they want to come back and see it again and again.”
He added, “I meet readers who say ‘I started reading the book and then my mother-in-law stole it, and then my teenage daughter stole it, and so, three generations of my family have now read this book and that’s never happened in my life before.’ And so, I hope the same thing happens for this movie. It’s multi-generational. It’s for families. It’s for people of every color and background.”