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CRAZY RICH ASIANS

About The Production
EVERY FAMILY HAS iTS CRAZY

Rachel: "You really should have told me you're like the Prince William of Asia."

Nick: "That's ridiculous. I'm much more of a Harry."

"Crazy Rich Asians" takes a fun, engaging and hilarious look at what can happen when young love collides with old money.

Singapore's favorite son, Nick Young, proudly brings his beautiful and successful New Yorker girlfriend Rachel Chu home for a meet-and-greet, but the family dynamics aren't quite what she expects. For Rachel, what starts as a dream romantic holiday with the man she adores becomes a battle to remain true to herself and her roots, while holding her own against picture-perfect backstabbing rivals and a prospective mother-in-law who thinks this modern American girl will never measure up.

"We've all been there," says director Jon M. Chu, "feeling out of place, confident in some moments and self-conscious in others, being on the outside and trying to find common ground. it's great to have a close family, but sometimes that can drive you nuts. They embarrass you. They're judgmental about who you're seeing and where you're headed. Mothers, especially, can put their sons on a giant pedestal and make it their business that the person he chooses is worthy. i have gone through that with my own mother," he confesses with a smile.

Set in Singapore and featuring the first all-Asian ensemble in a contemporary Hollywood film in 25 years, the story mines humor from the idiosyncrasies of one family in a way that people everywhere can relate to-no matter who they are, how much money they have, or where they call home. It taps into the fundamental desire to fit in, while honoring your own identity, in an era of blending-and sometimes clashing-cultures.

As Rachel's friend tries to warn her: these people aren't just rich. They're crazy-rich. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Constance Wu, who stars as the intrepid Rachel, describes her as "a college professor raised by a working-class, single mom. For many people, that's a point of pride, but not for the Youngs. Their pride comes from legacy. I don't think the story says one value system is better than the other, but shows those cultural differences and the differences between Asian and AsianAmerican, that are often overlooked. What I love about Rachel is that when things get tough she has the courage to follow her heart and forge her own path, in ways that are tested, but, ultimately, make up who she is."

It's a test for Nick, too, even though he knows what's coming. "Having decided that Rachel is the one, he first has to get over the speed bump of bringing her home," says Henry Golding, making his feature film debut as Nick. "He's afraid if she sees how he was brought up, she might think he's not the guy she fell in love with. Also, once home, he sees more clearly the forces conspiring to tear them apart and how standing his ground will affect them both."

"We knew that the universality of the story would come from its specificity," Chu offers. "The more specific we could be about the cultural touchstones, the characters and their backgrounds, the more we would create a story that people everywhere could emotionally connect with. Because every culture and every family is crazy and has traditions and weird things you're reluctant to show anyone, but that, over time, you just might become proud of and want to share."

That concept is evidenced by the worldwide popularity of the book on which the film is based, author Kevin Kwan's New York Times and international bestseller Crazy Rich Asians. Kwan served as an executive producer on the film and makes a cameo in the montage where the gossip over Nick and Rachel's imminent visit goes viral. He consulted on myriad details from character to costumes, locations to design, opened up his private family albums to inspire the design teams and even put the filmmakers in touch with a private watch collector who lent the production a prized high-end timepiece that arrived with its own security escort. "He was the best creative partner," Chu attests.

Regarding the script, though, Kwan was strictly hands-off, stating, "I was too close to it. So, we brought in these amazing writers, Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim. I wanted to give them absolute freedom to go in and take out the story that would work best for the movie. Between their vision and Jon's, they really supercharged it. It's one thing to describe a scene when you have 30 pages to create this world, but, in a movie, you have a split second. People respond immediately."

Kwan's involvement began with producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson of Color Force and John Penotti of Ivanhoe Pictures, who were galvanized by the story while it was still in galleys.

Says Jacobson, "I couldn't put it down. it completely swept me up into this world i'd never known, yet I found it very accessible. Anyone who's been rejected by their in-laws or made to feel that they've brought home the 'wrong' kind of girl, the 'wrong' kind of guy, the 'wrong' gender, race, background, class, whatever, will understand. We live in a global community. We're connected by the internet. We have a million ways to meet people with common interests but not necessarily common backgrounds. Those things aren't as likely to match up now as they would when people met in the same neighborhood. So that experience of trying to bridge the gap, trying to hold on to who you are but still lean forward into what you're becoming and who you've fallen in love with, I think, is as timely and universal as it gets."

Likewise, says Penotti, "I was struck by how the story drew you in with both its eccentricities and familiarities, and, most of all, its heart. That's a tricky thing to pull off. I'm Italian. I have a deep-rooted history in Italy and a very large family, and it's easy to see the peculiarities of that mirrored in an Asian context; the focus on food and home, and the appreciation of family and tradition. That, to me, felt like the basis for a great motion picture experience."

The author, in turn, was taken by what he recalls as "their passion and commitment. I really trusted this team. I said, 'Go for it, as long as it retains the DNA of my book,' and I think we've done that, in spades."

When the time came to seek a director, Penotti acknowledges, "We knew well before he knew that Jon was the one." Beyond his qualifications as a filmmaker, the producer notes another, less obvious attribute. "Jon innately understood Rachel's character, as a fish out of water."

A first-generation American of Taiwanese heritage, Chu says, "Growing up in an immigrant household, part of me is traditional Chinese. But, I'm really a California boy. Going to school, I would play basketball and tennis and do all these very American things, and that struggle over my cultural identity was very much present in my life. You actually have to make choices about which parts of which culture and philosophy you're going to use, what to drop and what to incorporate. The world is getting smaller and I think we need to celebrate human beings in all their craziness, in all their cultures, and see the similarities. The future is the next generation taking pieces from all these different influences and making it their own.

"I'm at a point in my career where I wanted to do something a little more personal," Chu continues. "There aren't a lot of stories on the big screen that speak to experiences like mine, so, when I heard there was going to be a movie of this book I loved, I was energized. I had a vision for it. The moment I reached out to Nina, Brad and John, I learned they had already sent me the script, so it was as if it was meant to be."

Like the book, the movie brackets the heartwarming and romantic with laugh-out-loud bursts of candor. "Comedy is a great way to bring the audience in and let them know you're in on the joke," says Chu. "Sometimes when you're trying to say something real about culture and self-worth, it's good to bring in some brilliant comedic voices. We were lucky to find such amazing actors. And having an all-Asian cast tell this story is truly exciting for me."

The film showcases a large ensemble of fan favorites from film, television, music and comedy-legends and rising stars alike-in a wide array of compelling, original characters, from the leads to every distinctive supporting role. They represent a range of nationalities and countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea and The Philippines, as well as the U.S., UK, and Australia.

"Jon was passionate about this film like it was his baby," proclaims Awkwafina, playing Rachel's outspoken and always fashion-forward former college roomie, Peik Lin. "He was invested in all the characters, he knew our potential, and he created an environment for us to function at our best. We were like a big family."

Part of the cast and crew's bonding experience was being on location in Singapore and Malaysia. "The movie is a love letter to the food, culture and beauty of this area," says producer Brad Simpson. "Shooting in Singapore itself was non-negotiable. The mixture of pristinely preserved colonial architecture from the past with ultra-modern cutting-edge buildings of the future, the life on the streets, and the vibrancy of the Hawker Markets, all make its signature. We also knew there were two iconic locations that had to be in the film: the Marina Bay Sands, and the famous Gardens by the Bay."

Adds Chu, "I think our film showcases much of its beauty it in a way that audiences around the world can appreciate, and, hopefully, make them feel like they're traveling along with us."

Taking all these elements together, "There's a side to the movie that's completely fun and crazy," says Michelle Yeoh, who portrays Nick's mother, Eleanor. "There's also the balance of what it takes to be part of an empire and such a family with all the responsibility and expectations, and I think audiences will gain an understanding into some of these traditions."

"Every character has an understandable back story," says Ken Jeong, who plays Peik Lin's flashy nouveau riche dad, Wye Mun Goh. "It's so well written and dimensionalized. I even got choked up in some of the small, sweet moments."

At its core, "Crazy Rich Asians" is a love story...a kind of savvy Cinderella tale, complete with a charming prince, a magnificent castle, and a battle of wills between two strong women determined to write their own ending. "I definitely see this as a modern-day, aspirational fairytale," states Chu. "Rachel is our princess-warrior, and this is her journey to discover who she is-an American girl on her first trip to Asia, who comes away with a deeper appreciation not only of her past, but of her future."

LOVE: THE IRRESISTIBLE FORCE...

A born achiever with a strong work ethic, NYU Economics professor Rachel Chu has always met life's challenges realistically. if passed over for a promotion, she would just look critically within and vow to work harder. But what's disconcerting now is that the traits and accomplishments that make her such a catch and a success back home don't move the needle in this context. Consequently, says Chu, "When she gets to Singapore and it seems that everyone is trying to cut her down, it's easy to get caught up in thinking she's out of her league. She needs to come to terms with the fact that she is good enough and strong enough for this. She needs to stand up for herself and recognize the individual she's becoming: someone who will not only fight for Nick's happiness, but her own."

One thing she can't do is pretend to be something she's not. That's not her style. "Rachel is the way in for audiences," says Wu. "We see everything through her eyes. She's living a regular life, meeting her boyfriend for karaoke, et cetera, after work. Everything she has she has earned through hard work, and she's remained humble and appreciative. So, when she's thrown into this world of wealth unlike anything she's ever known, it's hard to fathom. Rich is something many of us have seen before: rich means you can buy whatever you want. Wealth means you can buy whatever you want and you control the market."

On the plus side, Wu points out, "Rachel and Nick really love each other. Love transcends class and culture and logic. When someone's your person, you know it, and that's what Rachel and Nick are to each other." But will that be enough?

Wu, of "Fresh Off the Boat" acclaim, was the filmmakers' first and only choice for the role. The team felt so strongly about her, and she was so eager to join the project, that production was postponed to accommodate her schedule. Penotti declares, "Constance was always our Rachel. We didn't look at anyone else. When she expressed interest, we said, 'Now we have a movie.' Her energy and exuberance, her intelligence, and her willingness to see the world fresh and convey that so effortlessly on screen made her the perfect Rachel."

Born in the U.S. to Taiwanese-American parents, "Constance was, in many respects, the personification of Rachel," adds Jacobson. "She's confident, fun, funny, approachable, very much the essence of that fresh-faced all-American girl who would be a breath of air to a guy like Nick."

Naturally, the perfect Rachel deserved the perfect Nick, but that proved significantly more daunting. Thousands of actors were auditioned around the world and online. "We were looking for someone who could believably be from Singapore and educated in England, with that specific accent," Chu outlines. "He had to be super-charming and likeable, as well as handsome, and with a good sense of humor; a true leading man." Serendipitously, someone in the office who had caught Henry Golding on television suggested Chu take a look at him. "He was a travel show host, doing cool adventure stories," the director recounts. "When you watched him talking with people on the street, he was truly a person of the world with such easy charisma."

"He seems like a guy anyone would want to either date or hang out with," says Jacobson. What clinched it was Golding's chemistry with Wu, who was reading with potential co-stars when he cut short his own honeymoon to fly in for a face-to-face. Chu recalls, "You could feel the electricity immediately. I knew that audiences would fall in love with them as a couple. You want to see them kiss. You want to see them fight. You just want to see them together."

Add a dash of vulnerability and some endearing cluelessness, and you have Nick Young, a man caught between two forces, trying to reconcile what he wants with what's expected of him. Says Golding, "He was brought up with a silver spoon but realized that, even though he was the heir apparent, he needed to discover his own way. He fell in love with a woman who brings out the best in him but doesn't know anything about that part of his life."

It's a situation Golding can appreciate. "I'm from Sarawak, the Malaysian state of Borneo, and half British," he offers. "As a kid, I grew up in the U.K. but have lived most of my life since then in Asia, so I can relate to not feeling one hundred percent at home or belonging in either place. I've adopted numerous cultures, as Nick has. He's taken elements from each part of his life and made them his own, and I think his strength is that he doesn't necessarily follow anyone's guidelines. He just wants to be the person he really is."

It's a commendable goal and, while in New York, Nick had the chance to pursue it. But now that he's back home in Singapore, the jig is up. Actually, the jig was pretty much up on the flight over, when he and Rachel got the royal treatment from the airline in which he finally had to concede his family has a controlling interest.

Now, as Rachel makes her way through this dazzling minefield, Nick, too, must step up, because if this is a fairytale story it's one with a twist. "He's not there to save her," Chu states. "He doesn't have some brilliant plan to protect her from the dragons. She has to do that herself. At the same time, she gives him the opportunity to make important choices he's been avoiding." And it all starts with his mother...

ELEANOR YOUNG, THE IMMOVABLE OBJECT

Real power doesn't raise its voice. That's what Michelle Yeoh suggested to Chu in their initial explorations of her character, Eleanor Young. Chu recalls, "She said, 'I don't go to Rachel; she comes to me. I don't yell because truly powerful people don't yell. They don't need to move one muscle or expend any energy on you, and that can cut more than anything else.'"

A striking figure-striking terror, some would say-Eleanor is the epitome of poise and polish, flawless from her coiffure to the point of her bespoke shoes, as only the inimitable Yeoh could portray her. One of the few Chinese actors to gain worldwide recognition in the 1990s, Yeoh was revered by her fellow cast and the filmmakers, not the least of whom was Chu, who says, "I grew up loving her performances and being inspired by her. I will never forget going to the theater to see 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' in a packed house, with people yelling and cheering her on."

"Eleanor is what we call in Singapore a 'lion mum,'" offers Golding, and that's putting it mildly, considering her first meeting with her son's girlfriend. Rachel, in a borrowed dress for the occasion, is all warmth and respectful affection, spontaneously offering a hug from which Eleanor visibly recoils.

But Yeoh took care to present Eleanor as more than a villain, in a way that mothers the world over might understand. "Everybody looks at her and trembles in their shoes, but Eleanor is a protective and caring mother," Yeoh says. "She is trying to keep the family together-not just for themselves but for the many others who depend on them. She sent her son abroad for an education but now wants him to come home to assume ownership of their company.

"She thinks this young woman is unsuitable because she has no idea what it takes to be in a traditional Chinese family," Yeoh continues. "Her son needs someone to support him-as Eleanor has done for her own husband-and she feels it's unfair to expect Rachel to do that because she is totally unprepared. She's just not what Nick needs."

"Michelle wanted to play Eleanor the way Kwan envisioned her, as a human being," says Chu. "You root for her in one scene and hate her in another, and that's the brilliance of Michelle." ironically, adds Wu, "Rachel does the same thing to her. She sees Eleanor with all her wealth and power and makes a hollow assessment about who she is. Both women need to look a little deeper."

For a story in which family is an underlying theme, Simpson notes, "Romantic comedies often focus on the tension between a couple, but I think we all know that the real tension leading up to a partnership is often with your potential in-laws. in the book, and in the film, Nick is faced with an impossible situation: should he chose his love or his family? There was never any question that the Rachel-Nick-Eleanor triangle would be the focus of the story."

Perhaps the answer lies in Eleanor's relationship with her own mother-in-law: the family's true matriarch, Ah Ma (the Chinese word for grandmother), played with commanding grace by Lisa Lu. Despite her light step and sweet smile, and her need to lean on supportive arms, this is one senior who's not ceding one iota of her immense power to a woman who, even after more than three decades, hasn't fully won her favor.

"Eleanor might be the public face, but Ah Ma is the head of the family," states Lu. "She led them to prosperity and is still very concerned about family affairs."

"Lisa is a legend," says Chu of the Beijing-born Hollywood pioneer whose long career spans film and television projects in both China and the U.S. "I was awed by her presence. She has enormous vitality and, even with as much experience as she has, is constantly working at her craft. It was an honor and so much fun to have her, Michelle and Constance-three generations of strong women-depicting these three generations of strong women on the screen." At first, it appears that Ah Ma takes a shine to Rachel, leading Nick to believe she has mellowed since his last visit. But it's probably not something he should count on.

TEAM RACHEL

If Eleanor is unwelcoming and Ah Ma unreadable, at least Rachel can count a few people in her corner, starting with her old college pal Peik Lin Goh, played by rapper, writer and rising film star Awkwafina. A force of nature sporting a cheeky blonde wig and driving a hot pink Audi- with a ready cocktail dress in its trunk-Peik Lin is smart, wickedly funny and unabashedly outspoken, from her personality and opinions to her original ensembles. "She's our truth-sayer," notes Chu. "Even if we think she's joking, Peik Lin lays out the truth. She even hammers at Rachel when necessary. When there's an easy solution to a ridiculous situation, she calls it out. She's Rachel's opposite and that kind of buddy comedy between the two of them really comes through.

"We needed someone to not be sappy or mince words, someone who could really entertain audiences, and who better than Awkwafina?" he asks. "I'm a huge fan. Her raps are hilarious. She brought all her scenes to life. With Awkwafina, even something straightforward like choosing a dress becomes a sarcastic commentary on culture."

But Peik Lin is a lifeline to Rachel. An outsider by Nick's family's standards, she's still plugged in enough to know what you don't say or do and what shoes you can't be caught dead wearing at the Young compound. "She serves a pretty big purpose in showing Rachel the ropes and not letting her embarrass herself in this culture that she doesn't understand," says Awkwafina. "She's really not one of them but knows the ins and outs. She's rich, but it's a different kind of rich. It's nouveau riche, and her family might be more relatable because of that. They're also very dysfunctional."

Dysfunctional, sure, but not in a bad way... Says Chu, "Ultimately, Peik Lin is there for Rachel. You judge her, and you judge her family by appearances, and then, as the story unfolds, you see them becoming like Rachel's family and her support. They have real heart. And I thought that turn would be great, to let the audience go from judging them to loving them."

Awkwafina enjoyed the chance to volley with another actor known for improv, comic timing and bold characterizations: Ken Jeong, who stars as her father, Wye Mun Goh. "Ken makes me laugh like i've never laughed before. I think I must have wasted an hour's worth of film breaking character because of him," she says. "With improv, my eyes roll to the back of my head and the devil takes over and I could go for three hours."

Jeong responds, "it was so cool, you can tell there's a shared sensibility we have, the way we get along. It was magic casting by Jon. We were immediately on the same page, joking around, and I thought, 'it's like she's really my daughter.'"

In contrast to the staggering but understated Young fortune, the Gohs are all about the flash: gold this and designer that, and a Bentley parked out front. "The Gohs are the opposite of the Youngs, whose wealth spans generations," says Jeong. "Mr. Goh is newly rich, and so everything tends toward the gaudy and over-the-top, especially his clothes."

Jeong came aboard as a big fan of the novel and open to any role, although he was particularly inspired by Goh. "We started playing around with the character and the stuff that happens around the table when Peik Lin has Rachel over," Chu recounts. "He brought so much of his personality to it, and it was just a delight and a pleasure to work with him."

But as much as Rachel is embraced by the Gohs, what she really needs is an ally on the inside, especially for those times when her knight in white linen is whisked away for one family obligation or another. Thank goodness for Astrid Young Teo, not surprisingly Nick's favorite cousin and the only one of the bunch as down-to-earth as he is-despite the aura of beauty, style, wealth and impeccable taste that makes her the envy of every other woman on the island.

One of the book's most beloved characters, "Astrid's story is so big, we had to be very strategic about which parts of it to include," Chu acknowledges. "Casting was also challenging because Astrid is so flawless, you wonder how such a person could exist on this planet." In sync with many fan-site wish lists, the director's search led to Gemma Chan. "She's so elegant and warm. She can appear both relatable and untouchable at the same time, which is, I think, the trick to playing Astrid with all those facets to her personality and upbringing. Gemma was the absolute embodiment of the role," he says.

"Astrid was my favorite character," Chan offers. "I know she's a favorite for a lot of people so there was a bit of pressure, but for me it was all about trying to get into her head as well as her skin. it was about trying to find the truth of the emotional journey she's on.

"Astrid comes from privilege, but she doesn't buy into the trappings of wealth," Chan continues. "She's grounded and kind. There's a kind of myth that's grown around her so that everyone thinks she's the epitome of perfection. She has the perfect life, perfect husband, perfect home, perfect child...but, really, she's a woman struggling to hold everything together and her world is falling apart when we meet her. To me, that's very interesting, to play someone who is presenting something to the world despite the various things going on underneath."

In fact, Nick and Rachel's arrival coincides with Astrid's heartbreaking discovery that her husband is cheating on her. Her need for privacy to sort things out means it takes Astrid some time before she fully connects with Rachel. But it's a connection worth waiting for.

Meanwhile, Rachel gets a warm welcome from Nick's best friend Colin Khoo, played by Chris Pang, and Colin's fiancée Araminta Lee, played by Sonoya Mizuno. Colin and Araminta's impending wedding is the reason Rachel and Nick have traveled to Singapore.

"Araminta is fond of Nick. Nick makes Colin happy, therefore, whatever makes Nick happy is good for Colin and that, in turn, is good for Araminta, so she accepts Rachel at face value," notes Mizuno. "Araminta is a model and Singapore's most celebrated fashion icon as well as the heiress to a multi-million-dollar fortune. She's very secure in her position in the world and is about to be married to the love of her life, so, unlike many of the other women in the film, she's not threatened by anyone or anything. When we first see her, she's wearing pajamas and glasses and no makeup, and that's just as much a part of who she is."

But when her real estate mogul mom offers up her own Sumatran beachfront resort for Araminta's weekend bachelorette party, plus the private jet to fly all her friends in, well, that's also who she is. And by the time that party gets rolling, Araminta is simply too consumed by wedding prep to take Rachel under her wing.

Colin, on the other hand, takes Nick aside for a reality check on what exactly his love-struck pal expects to come of all this, and the cost to poor Rachel, whether he wants to hear it or not.

"Colin is Nick's confidant and best friend for life. They've always been there for each other and they always will be," says Pang.

Studying for the role, Pang went to the source and spoke with Kwan, because, "A lot of these characters are inspired by real people he's come across in his life, so I got to hear about the 'real' Colin. I still don't know who he is, because Kevin was careful not to divulge enough so I could figure it out, but one thing I learned was that I sort of look like him. So, there you go," he says with a grin. "There's a guy out there who sort of looks like me. if you find out who he is, let me know."

Rounding out Team Rachel is fashion designer Oliver T'Sien, a self-described "poor relation and rainbow sheep of the family," who cannily remains in Eleanor's good graces by making himself useful-from procuring the odd item like a rare koi for the pond or a Cambodian gong for the living room, to deftly removing a disgraced guest from a social gathering.

Oliver is played by Nico Santos, whose insight into this super stratum began with a job at a high-end boutique in San Francisco where, he remembers, "a lot of my clients were crazy-rich. When I read the book, I thought, I know exactly who these people are because i've sold them many a designer handbag and gown. They'd come in for an outfit for dinner and then, $60,000 later, it was like they'd just gone to the mall and picked out a few things."

Oliver's heart goes out to Rachel, even as he bonds with fellow fashionista and sharp wit Peik Lin, and the latter two strike up a lively conspiratorial banter that runs throughout the story. As Santos sees him, "Oliver is dapper and sartorial and a bit of a gossip queen. He clocks Rachel at this big party and just wants to help. He's family, but still an outsider, which a lot of people can relate to-aspiring to be part of a clique they don't quite belong to."

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