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
young love collides with old money.
Singapore's favorite son, Nick Young, proudly brings his beautiful and
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
becomes a battle to remain true to herself and her roots, while holding her own
backstabbing rivals and a prospective mother-in-law who thinks this modern
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
it's great to have a close family, but sometimes that can drive you nuts. They
They're judgmental about who you're seeing and where you're headed. Mothers,
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
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
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
that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Constance Wu, who stars as the intrepid Rachel, describes her as "a college
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
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
is the one, he first has to get over the speed bump of bringing her home," says
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
"We knew that the universality of the story would come from its specificity,"
"The more specific we could be about the cultural touchstones, the characters
backgrounds, the more we would create a story that people everywhere could
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
That concept is evidenced by the worldwide popularity of the book on which the
based, author Kevin Kwan's New York Times and international bestseller Crazy
Kwan served as an executive producer on the film and makes a cameo in the
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
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.
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
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
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
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
The author, in turn, was taken by what he recalls as "their passion and
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
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
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
my cultural identity was very much present in my life. You actually have to make
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
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
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
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,
comedy-legends and rising stars alike-in a wide array of compelling, original
the leads to every distinctive supporting role. They represent a range of
countries, including Singapore, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, South
The Philippines, as well as the U.S., UK, and Australia.
"Jon was passionate about this film like it was his baby," proclaims Awkwafina,
Rachel's outspoken and always fashion-forward former college roomie, Peik Lin.
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
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
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
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
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
with a charming prince, a magnificent castle, and a battle of wills between two
determined to write their own ending. "I definitely see this as a modern-day,
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
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
"Rachel is the way in for audiences," says Wu. "We see everything through her
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
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
class and culture and logic. When someone's your person, you know it, and that's
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
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
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
daunting. Thousands of actors were auditioned around the world and online. "We
for someone who could believably be from Singapore and educated in England, with
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
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
"He seems like a guy anyone would want to either date or hang out with," says
What clinched it was Golding's chemistry with Wu, who was reading with potential
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
Add a dash of vulnerability and some endearing cluelessness, and you have Nick
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
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
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
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
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
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
A striking figure-striking terror, some would say-Eleanor is the epitome of
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
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
But Yeoh took care to present Eleanor as more than a villain, in a way that
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
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
in a traditional Chinese family," Yeoh continues. "Her son needs someone to
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,"
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
wealth and power and makes a hollow assessment about who she is. Both women need
a little deeper."
For a story in which family is an underlying theme, Simpson notes, "Romantic
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
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:
true matriarch, Ah Ma (the Chinese word for grandmother), played with commanding
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
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
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
spans film and television projects in both China and the U.S. "I was awed by her
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
of strong women-depicting these three generations of strong women on the
At first, it appears that Ah Ma takes a shine to Rachel, leading Nick to believe
mellowed since his last visit. But it's probably not something he should count
If Eleanor is unwelcoming and Ah Ma unreadable, at least Rachel can count a few
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
outspoken, from her personality and opinions to her original ensembles. "She's
notes Chu. "Even if we think she's joking, Peik Lin lays out the truth. She even
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
"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
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,
plugged in enough to know what you don't say or do and what shoes you can't be
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
Dysfunctional, sure, but not in a bad way... Says Chu, "Ultimately, Peik Lin is
Rachel. You judge her, and you judge her family by appearances, and then, as the
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
Awkwafina enjoyed the chance to volley with another actor known for improv,
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,
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
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,
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
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
But as much as Rachel is embraced by the Gohs, what she really needs is an ally
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
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
One of the book's most beloved characters, "Astrid's story is so big, we had to
strategic about which parts of it to include," Chu acknowledges. "Casting was
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
"Astrid comes from privilege, but she doesn't buy into the trappings of wealth,"
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
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
Meanwhile, Rachel gets a warm welcome from Nick's best friend Colin Khoo, played
Chris Pang, and Colin's fiancĂ©e Araminta Lee, played by Sonoya Mizuno. Colin and
impending wedding is the reason Rachel and Nick have traveled to Singapore.
"Araminta is fond of Nick. Nick makes Colin happy, therefore, whatever makes
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 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
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
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
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
Rounding out Team Rachel is fashion designer Oliver T'Sien, a self-described
relation and rainbow sheep of the family," who cannily remains in Eleanor's good
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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