Lulu Wang criticizes Ron Howard's decision to direct biopic of Chinese pianist Lang Lang
While noting her own commonalities with Lang, the Chinese American filmmaker questioned whether Howard has the cultural context needed to helm a project that will likely explore various facets of the arts in China.
"As a classically-trained pianist born in China, I believe it's impossible to tell Lang Lang's story without an intimate understanding of Chinese culture + the impact of the Cultural Revolution on artists & intellectuals + the effects of Western imperialism. Just saying," Wang tweeted on Tuesday.
She continued, writing, "I'm not saying this because I want to direct this movie. I do not. I just don't think these are the artists to grapple w/ the cultural specificities of Northeast China where Lang Lang (and my family) are from. Or w/ the cultural aspect of the physical violence in his upbringing."
"Have we learned NOTHING from Mulan?" she added, referencing criticism that Disney's new film whitewashed the classic Chinese story. "I haven't said anything because yes representation and many people I love are involved, but I just have to. Just HAVE to. Because 2020 man... and I'm f—ing exhausted."
The Hollywood Reporter announced earlier today that Howard would direct a biopic based on the world-renowned pianist's memoir Journey of a Thousand Miles. Howard, alongside Brian Grazer, will also be producing the film through their Imagine Entertainment company. Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney (Power Rangers, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) will adapt the book for the screen, a development some commenters also took issue with as both writers are white.
Meanwhile, Lang and Jean-Jacques Cesbron will serve as executive producers on the project, together with Polygram Entertainment's Michele Anthony and David Blackman.
Journey of a Thousand Miles focuses on Lang Lang's life from his childhood in Shenyang, China, to his rise to superstardom in the global classic music industry.
"Lang Lang’s story is one of determination, passion, sacrifice, and finding the inner strength to beat the odds," said Grazer and Howard in a joint statement to THR. "This film is a bridge between two cultures that share universal truths about the gauntlets we face in the pursuit of greatness."
Added Lang: "Dream big, work hard, and always believe in yourself. This movie, thanks to Ron Howard’s vision, will inspire young people around the world to follow their dreams and never forget they are one in a million."
A representative for Imagine Entertainment declined to comment. EW has also reached out to reps for Wang.
Howard is known for directing films like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (which earned him two Oscars), Frost/Nixon, and more recently, Solo: A Star Wars Story. He and Grazer have also produced TV series such as Arrested Development, 24, Friday Night Lights, Felicity, and more.
Wang earned acclaim for 2019's The Farewell, which starred Awkwafina as a Chinese American woman who returns to her home country after her grandmother is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Critics praised the film for its cultural specificity and its exploration of family values and grief. It scored two Golden Globe nominations, with Awkwafina winning for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy.