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Why the “Crazy Rich Asians” team turned down a huge Netflix payday

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the producers behind the film reveal just how important it was to get Crazy Rich Asians into theaters.

Why the “Crazy Rich Asians” team turned down a huge Netflix payday
[Photo: courtesy of Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros.]

A lot of elements about the forthcoming film, Crazy Rich Asians, are striking. The opulent set decoration, just dripping with dollars. The romantic chemistry between stars Constance Wu and Henry Golding, along with the comedic chemistry between Wu and her character’s sidekick, played by Awkwafina. Perhaps the most important aspect of the film, though, is what it means for representation. Crazy Rich Asians will be the first film in 25 years with Hollywood studio money behind an Asian-American ensemble cast and creator to see a theatrical film release.

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As it turns out, the producers of the film turned down a lot more money to make sure the film actually would play in theaters.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, director Jon M. Chu and author Kevin Kwan, who wrote the novel the film is based on, discuss in detail Netflix’s attempt to outbid Warner Bros. for the property. The streaming service apparently offered “complete artistic freedom, a greenlighted trilogy and huge, seven-figure-minimum paydays for each stakeholder, upfront.” Although a gaggle of producers, lawyers, and advisors were involved, the decision fell to Chu and Kwan, who ultimately decided to forsake Netflix.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Kwan and Chu had already tried to rationalize the cash grab: ‘Maybe we donate a percentage of our extra income to great causes,’ Chu recalls the two having discussed the night before. ‘But where does that money go? Right back to trying to get to this position of getting us [Asians] on the big screen.'”

In the end, the pair obviously opted to go with Warner Bros., making their forthcoming film the first Hollywood studio movie since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club to feature an entirely Asian-American cast and director. Whether the decision pays off monetarily in the end or not, it’s already paying off with some much-needed Asian-American visibility on the big screen.

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