The immense critical and commercial success of Crazy Rich Asians last summer was a watershed moment for Asian representation in a major Hollywood movie. But behind the scenes, things haven’t been quite so rosy. We became aware of Crazy Rich Asians‘ crazy rich problems last week when writer Adele Lim exited the sequel over a huge pay disparity between Warner Bros.’ starting offers to her and co-writer Peter Chiarelli.
The controversy didn’t look good for the project which, for all its talk of representation on the screen, apparently wasn’t keeping up with representation behind the screen. Now Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu, who is returning to direct the sequel, is weighing in on the Crazy Rich Asians writer pay disparity dispute.
In a statement released on his Twitter, Chu wrote that he “stands with Adele [Lim]” but “as many of you can imagine, negotiations are tough and more often than not messy — no matter who you are in the industry.”
Lim, who was the first movie’s only Asian writer, was reportedly offered only $110,000-plus as her salary for the sequel, which was a mere fraction of co-writer Chiarelli $800,000 to $1 million offer from Warner Bros. Lim walked away from the sequel upon learning of the gaping pay disparity, and Warner Bros. spent five months looking for another writer of Asian descent to take Lim’s place, only to return to Lim with a new deal that Lim refused.
Chu said in his statement that when he learned that Lim was “unhappy” with her initial offer, he and Color Force producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson and Warner Bros. executives attempted to get “to a place of parity between the two writers at a significant number.” But by the time they came up with a number of different solutions, including Chiarelli’s offer to share his own fee, “a lot of time had passed” and Lim declined the offers. Lim, who is currently writing the script for Walt Disney Animation’s Raya and the Last Dragon, chose to speak publicly on the pay disparity to bring awareness to the still-prevalent issue. Chu entreated Crazy Rich Asians fans to not criticize Chiarelli, who “wrote two drafts of the script months before I ever joined the project with Adele,” and that neither Chiarelli, nor Lim, nor he himself had “authored” the film, but that Crazy Rich Asians was the result of the production’s many respective teams. Chu added:
“What I discovered personally through this process is there are still things to debate amongst ourselves (like value of experience vs. lack of opportunity, TV vs. film writing, work experience vs. life experience, creative contribution valuations, etc.), which I am sure won’t be simple answers but I know we must try to figure out to keep the needle moving. I am, of course, frustrated that we all can’t do the next one together but I think the conversation this has started is MUCH more important.”
Chu concluded his statement by noting that “the door is always open for Adele” should Lim choose to return to the sequel. “If there’s another shot at making it work I know we are all for it but that’s a personal and private conversation between ourselves,” he said.
In a tweet earlier this week, Lim said that she bore no ill will toward Chu and the cast of Crazy Rich Asians. “My gratitude to the countless people who voiced their support,” she tweeted. “To people going through their own fight – you are not alone. Also, I have only love for Jon M. Chu and the cast of CRA. It was/is a movement and I’ll always root for its continued success.”
You can read Chu’s entire statement below.
— Jon M. Chu (@jonmchu) September 9, 2019
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