How perfect was Constance Wu as Rachel Chu in Crazy Rich Asians? She stole the scenes and the chemistry between her and Henry Golding could make Heisenberg’s “Blue Sky” meth. But Constance wasn’t the first choice. An Asian woman wasn’t even the first choice. Hollywood wanted to whitewash Crazy Rich Asians by making Rachel Chu’s character a white woman.
In an interview with NPR Kevin Kwan, the Singapore draft dodger answered questions about his life and the movie. One particular note that came up was about a producer wanting Rachel to be played by a white woman. After his book came out in 2013 he got offers for the book to be made into a movie with the only caveat that they be allowed to change the lead female role into a white woman. He ignored the offer and waited for the right people to come along. Kevin tells NPR,
“This was back in 2013. So this was way before the whole Hollywood whitewashing movement began, before all the waves of outrage that happened — justifiably so, with the casting of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, things like that. So it was early days yet, and I knew that this movie would be a challenge because I knew it needed an all-Asian cast, and so I knew that a lot of traditional Hollywood would find it to be not a viable project, and so that’s why I chose to go the team that I did. We thought we would really produce this outside of the studio system and it would be an independent film. … It’s taken on a whole other life that I never dreamed was possible.”
It’s a good thing he did because there is no way that Crazy Rich Asians would have made as much money as it did if it starred a white woman. It also wouldn’t have as much of an impact and emotional release to Asian Americans if the main character was white. A whitewashed movie wouldn’t have had the same support from the Asian community and it would have lost all the momentum this movie had going in. So congratulations Kevin Kwan for sticking with your guns.