Even before it opened last week, Crazy Rich Asians was one of the most important movies of 2018. Not only did the romantic comedy become the first studio film in 25 years to feature a predominantly Asian-American and Asian cast, but, as the film’s star Constance Wu noted in a recent Time’s Up newsletter, “Crazy Rich Asians is the second studio movie ever to star an Asian-American woman. And the first studio movie ever to star an Asian-American women in a modern context.”
Now, fresh off a triumphant box-office debut, the film is also important for another reason. As director Jon M. Chu noted during a stop by Yahoo Entertainment, there was one particular scene — a moment so brief it might have escaped your notice — that proved incredibly significant to the filmmaker for a very personal reason.
Midway though Crazy Rich Asians, Rachel (Wu) arrives at a lavish mansion. When she pulls up to the valet, she witnesses Nick (Henry Golding) coming outside to greet her. He’s dressed in a fine white suit and confidently walks through doorways that are opened for him by valets. As he gets closer to Rachel, he breaks into a smile. It’s an entrance straight out of the grand Hollywood tradition.
“One of the most touching moments of the making of this movie was having my brother watch the movie,” Chu said, crackling with emotion. “[My brother] watched this point where Henry comes out [of his grandmother’s home] and he’s in this amazing white suit. My brother’s this very tough, athletic, 6-2 dude. He cried watching it.
“After he was like, ‘You don’t understand, Jon, how that makes me feel. To see someone that you aspire to be and to have that on the big screen to share,'” Chu continued. “When you think of all the little trappings that have gathered in your brain over the years to tell you you’re not good enough, you’re not handsome enough, you’re not one of those people and to see his reaction, to see it for the first time like that, it means everything to me. I don’t even know how to process it, to see him react that way. It’s just been a learning experience all the way for me.”
We caught up with Golding during a press event for his next film, A Simple Favor, and asked what he thought of his inspiring role.
“I’m very happy to fly the flag and inspire, to get people thinking that they are able to do that with a lot of hard work, dedication, and making the right decisions,” Golding said. “For me, I want to continue the color-blind leading role.”
Golding isn’t the only actor in Crazy Rich Asians to be featured in the kind of big-studio scene usually reserved for white leading men. Both Chris Pang and Pierre Png get shirtless moments to display their physiques. “We really wanted to show off our Asian men here in ways that we usually don’t get to do that,” Chu said. “I felt a little creepy doing it, but we knew that was part of what we wanted to do and what the audience wanted to see. We gave them trainers, we were like, ‘C’mon guys! Let’s go!’ It was fun.”
There was one key change that Chu made to further empower his male cast — a change suggested by his leading lady.
“In the book, I think, they talk about Rachel Chu not dating Asian men,” Chu said. “She goes on this whole run, with context, with all this backstory, it’s all really fun. But when it’s a one-line joke in the script, it doesn’t have any of that context. It feels very cutting to Asian men. I didn’t see it at first. It was Constance who brought it up to me, late in the game… I agreed with her.” Chu decided to cut the joke altogether.
“That’s the importance of having representation behind the camera, in front of the camera — you can have safe conversations,” Chu continued. “You can have conversations where we value when we bring things up instead of saying, ‘Let’s just make the movie. You be the actor, I’ll be the director, we’ll talk later.’ These are very important things that can change the landscape of our conversation.”
Watch: Jon M. Chu discusses the mid-credits scene and where that might lead in a sequel. Spoilers ahead:
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