Actress Constance Wu, best-known for her starring role in ABC's "Fresh Off the Boat," will make her studio film debut in the forthcoming "Crazy Rich Asians" in theaters August 15. As the premiere inches closer, Wu penned an open letter detailing the significance of the movie.
"History is about to be made," she wrote, because "Crazy Rich Asians (CRA)" is the "first Hollywood studio film in over 25 years to center an Asian American's story."
This is not the first time that Wu has played a role in making history. "Fresh Off the Boat" was her first leading role on TV, and it marked the first network show starring and centering an Asian American family in over 20 years.
Wu wrote in her letter that she never dreamed she would ever star in a studio film, "because I had never seen that happen to someone who looked like me."
"CRA is changing that, just like FOTB ("Fresh Off the Boat") did," she said. "CRA not only centers an Asian American story, it is also filled with a talented, dynamic, unique all-Asian cast."
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Kevin Kwan, the author whose 2013 best-selling novel is being adapted for the film, and director Jon M. Chu revealed how they turned down a "gigantic payday" at Netflix so the film would be released and seen in theaters in all its groundbreaking glory.
"Jon and I both felt this sense of purpose. We needed this to be an old-fashioned cinematic experience, not for fans to sit in front of a TV and just press a button," Kwan said.
"To be on the biggest stage with the biggest stakes, that's what we asked for," Chu added.
It is an urgent intervention. A new report from USC Annenberg inclusion initiative, which examined inequity in film by looking at portrayals of gender, race, LGBT and disability over an 11-year period, found that, of the top 100 films in 2017, 65 failed to include a single Asian or Asian-American female character. And "a mere 3.1 percent of all directors were Asian or Asian American across 1,100 films and 11 years," according the report.
But the production and promotion of "Crazy Rich Asians" — including a unique marketing campaign, advance screenings for predominantly Asian-American audiences and collaborations with Asian-American community organizations for theater buyouts and outreach strategies, according to THR — means that Warner Bros. is wielding its studio power. It is the first time a major studio has done so for an all-Asian cast for a theatrical release since Disney produced "The Joy Luck Club" in 1993. A movie, which until now, had been the only Hollywood studio film to have an all Asian-American cast.
"I hope Asian American kids watch CRA and realize that they can the heroes of their own story," Wu said in her letter. "I know CRA won't represent every Asian American. So for those who don't feel seen, I hope there is a story you find soon that does represent you. I am rooting for you."
"We're not all the same, but we all have a story. I am the American daughter of immigrants," she continued. "Immigrant stories are the stories of dreams, of love, of sacrifice, of courage, of honor. They are what truly make America great."