Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu is publicly supporting Adele Lim, one of the film’s co-writers, after she exited the upcoming sequel over the issue of pay disparity. In a lengthy post on Twitter on Monday, Chu said he fought for a better deal on Lim’s behalf but she departed the project following lengthy negotiations. He also wrote that he would like to work with Lim in the future, and that he is “proud that she was able to stand up for her own measure of worth.”
In the wake of Crazy Rich Asians becoming a critical and commercial hit last summer, Lim was back on board to help pen a follow-up to the story of a Chinese-American economics professor (played by Constance Wu) who discovers that her boyfriend’s (Henry Golding) family in Singapore is insanely wealthy. However, news broke last week that Lim left the sequel because she was offered a significantly lower fee than her CRA co-writer, Peter Chiarelli.
“Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” Lim told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that women and people of color are often viewed as the “soy sauce” in a project — added for a culturally accurate splash rather than given credit for their significant work. Lim is a Malaysian native of Chinese descent, while Chiarelli is white.
In Chu’s statement Monday, he wrote, “For those of you who are asking, you bet your ass I stand with Adele! I believed in her before we ever shot the movie and believe in her beyond.” He also said that negotiations are often complicated and involve a lot of discussion, but that he was right there to fight for Lim.
“When I discovered she was unhappy with the initial offer, the producers, myself and studio executives leapt into action to ensure we got to a place of parity between the two writers at a significant number,” Chu continued. “It was both educational and powerful to hear all facets of the debate. Unfortunately by the time we came up with several different ways to satisfy everyone’s needs, a lot of time had passed and she declined the offer.”
“I’m proud that she was able to stand up for her own measure of worth and walk away when she felt like she was being undervalued,” Chu added, saying he had personal experience with making compromises during past film projects. “I will work with Adele in the future and respect the hell out of her. She was my sister and co-conspirator all the way through the film.”
Chu said that although he was frustrated by having to part ways with Lim for the sequel, the dialogue created by the situation could ultimately inspire progress in Hollywood. And while debate continues about issues like “value of experience vs lack of opportunity,” Chu said it’s clear there there is an uneven playing field for creators from marginalized backgrounds.
“I think the conversation this has started is MUCH more important that ourselves (and the movie sequels, frankly) so who am I to get in the way of that,” Chu wrote. “I agree with Adele that parity for women and people of color is crucial to the continued enlightenment of our industry and we still have a long way to go.”
Both Lim and Chu expressed that Chiarelli should not be blamed for Lim’s exit. Lim even revealed that Chiarelli offered to split his fee with her, and she turned him down.
“Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer,” she told THR. “If I couldn’t get pay equity after CRA, I can’t imagine what it would be like for anyone else.”
Chu concluded, “The door is always open for Adele and if there’s another shot at making it worth I know we are all for it but that’s a personal and private conversation between ourselves. In the meantime, Thank you for being loud, thank you for caring and your support. More to do. More to say. More to learn.”
Addressing the situation Sunday on Twitter, Lim also had nothing but love for Chu and the CRA cast and crew.
“It’s been a week. My gratitude to the countless people who voiced their support,” she wrote. “To people going through their own fight – you are not alone. Also, I have only love for [Jon M Chu] and the cast & crew of #CRA. It was/is a movement and I’ll always root for its continued success.”