ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I read that you wanted to do this film so badly you put together a presentation. But what exactly made you want the gig?
JON M. CHU: I had more recommendations to read this book than any other, from my sister, from my friends. I just loved the book, like, forget that I’m Asian, it was just a really fun, entertaining book, and it was a page-turner for me, but I was in the middle of shooting Now You See Me 2, so I couldn’t think about it, and then I sort of forgot about it. When I was finishing Now You See Me 2, I remember thinking about exploring the Asian-American identity side of my brain. I’ve never fully explored that as an artist. I went to Beijing several times to meet with companies to try to see, like, is there a story out there to explore that side of me?
Nothing really connected, but then about five months ago, my sister was like, “Did you read Crazy Rich Asians?” and I was like, “Oh yeah, there’s that book!” I knew [Color Force producers] Nina Jacobson and Brad [Simpson] were a part of it, and I love Nina, I knew she was going to do it justice, so I reached out to my agent and was like, “Hey, what’s going on with Crazy Rich Asians?” … I read the script that night and loved it.
I was looking for it. It’s a movie that speaks to my identity as an Asian and that struggle of figuring out who I am and where I belong, and it deals with what my family went through, what my mom and my dad from mainland China [went through], so all the struggles I’ve experienced are in this book in a fun way, not in some sort of lecturing way. I reached out to Nina and Brad that week and I was like, “I have to do this movie.” I knew in my heart I had to do it…
Where are you now with the film, in terms of casting? You’re making sure to cast an all-Asian cast.
We’ve been reading people, getting people on tape, and, you know, Asian-Americans and Asians overseas aren’t used to having roles to play like this, so it takes more effort, it takes more time, and it takes more money than a normal movie would. What’s great about Warner Bros. and Nina and Brad is everybody on board knows it takes that kind of extra energy.
Where we are right now is we know that we’ve seen a lot of people who are working right now, we’ve seen a lot of overseas Chinese actors, but who are the people we are missing? Who are the unknowns, the undiscovered, that we need to find? Because there’s no structure for those people, and they haven’t had these kind of roles, so they may not even be represented yet. We’re trying to dig deeper and find that next round. We’re also still working on the script, and we just got into this relationship with Warner Bros. so we’re just starting to figure out all the details of our actual shoot. It looks like we’re going to be shooting in the springtime, so we’re at soft prep right now, with prep starting in January, I would say.
To read the rest of the interview, go to EW: Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu talks challenges of finding all-Asian cast