Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu addresses film's 'whitewashing' criticism
Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu has apologized for not being more inclusive of South Asian characters amid ongoing criticism of whitewashing and stereotyping in the film. The 2018 romantic comedy, based on the 2013 Kevin Kwan novel of the same name, centered on a group of East Asian characters, leaving the mostly brown South Asian actors to play domestic workers.
"That's a lesson that I did not understand until it happened," Chu told Insider while promoting his new film In the Heights. "I was like, 'This is a book that exists and I'm making this book into a movie.' I can't add a new character into this book."
A box office smash that raked in more than $238 million, Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel (Constance Wu), a Chinese American professor, as she meets her boyfriend Nick's (Henry Golding) well-heeled family in Singapore.
In hindsight, Chu said he "should have" made the movie's South Asian characters "more human" by giving them more dialogue. He cited one scene in the film in which a crew of South Asians portray security guards armed with rifles, which gives Rachel and her friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) the feeling that they are in danger.
"Looking back, I should have had a joke there [for the guards] being like, 'These idiots' [about the girls]," he said. "There's stuff to do to make them more human instead of just, like, these guards."
While Chu wanted to include the scene because he really enjoyed it in the book, he added, "I didn't understand some of the other contexts to that. So hearing it from people, for me, it was a learning experience."
As he looks ahead, Chu promises he "will pay more attention to that stuff" so "he won't make that mistake again."
In an August 2018 interview with Deadline, Chu originally said it would be "unfair" for the film to represent all Asian people. "One movie that represents [all] Asians — that's just ridiculous." He added, "However, if this can crack the door a little bit so that other stories can be told, and it spawns a resurgence in these stories getting shown at the highest levels possible — I would love to have this."
Chu told Insider that a solution to the dearth of Asian characters in film is for studios to release more films featuring them. "Listen, we need to have more movies," he said. "You need to have more filmmakers so that it doesn't rest on one movie."