Warning: The following contains spoilers for Crazy Rich Asians. Read at your own risk!
Director Jon M. Chu had, appropriately enough, an embarrassment of riches when it came to his ensemble cast for Crazy Rich Asians. The only problem was that he didn’t have enough time to feature every single member.
After all, Kevin Kwan’s 2013 best-seller, on which the film is based, has such a sprawling cast of characters that the author had to include footnotes and draw elaborate family trees just to cover the bases. So when it came time to adapt the story for the big screen, Chu had to make sacrifices to keep the spotlight on protagonists Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding). One major sacrifice was cutting Harry Shum Jr.’s Charlie Wu, a key figure in Kwan’s book trilogy, from the film — save for a charming mid-credits scene.
In the tag, Charlie appears at the rooftop bar where Nick and Rachel are having their engagement party and locks eyes with Astrid (Gemma Chan), who smiles to herself afterward. Book readers know what this means: In the novels, Charlie is Astrid’s ex-boyfriend and love interest after her marriage to Michael (Pierre Png) begins to fall apart. Though the two only quietly clock each other in the scene, it’s clear they have a connection.
Chu admits he tried to follow the book’s plot — which involves Charlie attending Colin (Chris Pang) and Araminta’s (Sonoya Mizuno) wedding and reconnecting with Astrid there — to the letter. In fact, they filmed a scene with Charlie and Astrid dancing at the reception, which can still be glimpsed in the first teaser (and in the GIF below), but Chu realized it distracted from the point of Astrid’s story.
“What we put in the movie was great — they actually dance together — and it was so awesome, and Harry’s so charming and so lovable,” the director says. “But the problem was, it made Astrid feel like she was leaving Michael for Charlie, and we didn’t have enough room to expand on the idea. We just had to stay focused. Ultimately it’s about her independence, so that scene was in there all the way until the very end. When we took it out, Astrid’s journey became stronger. It was about her, not about her finding love.”
That said, Chu hopes the mid-credits tease helps assure fans that, if given the opportunity to continue the franchise, there will be much more down the line for Astrid and for Charlie. “It was just so fun to see the possibility,” he says. “I just can’t wait to be able to use more of the cast more. I think we tapped into their talent a little bit, and to be able to dive deeper into their stories and their performances… There’s a lot of gold there to mine, and I hope we get the opportunity.”
Crazy Rich Asians is in theaters now.