Crazy Rich Asians delayed five months just so Constance Wu could join
Director Jon M. Chu delayed production on movie for 5 months to wait for Constance Wu
Director Jon M. Chu held up production on his new romcom Crazy Rich Asians for five months just so US actress Constance Wu could join the cast as leading lady.
She was shooting the fourth season of her TV comedy series Fresh Off The Boat and the schedule conflicted with the film's, so she thought she had lost the opportunity.
On how she eventually snagged the part, the 36-year-old said in our interview at the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills: "I thought it would be remiss if I didn't at least express why it was important to me.
"So I actually wrote Jon an e-mail and I said, 'Whoever you cast and whatever you do with this movie, I am going to be the first in line. I will be your biggest cheerleader. But I just want to let you know why this means so much to me and that if you wait for me, I will put 110 per cent of my heart into this.'
"I guess he liked the e-mail because I'm sitting here. Yeah, that's how I got it."
In Crazy Rich Asians, which opens here tomorrow, Chinese-American economics professor Rachel Chu (Wu) accompanies her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to Singapore to attend his best friend's wedding, meeting his family and he did not tell her he was the scion of one of the country's richest families.
She becomes the target of not only all the rich socialites who have their eyes on him, but also of his mother (Michelle Yeoh), dripping with diamonds and veiled hostility.
Made with a US$30 million (S$41 million) budget, the film opened at No. 1 at the North American box office, with a five-day tally of US$34 million.
It holds a 93 per cent certified fresh rating on review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, along with an A CinemaScore.
Wu is proud to be part of a movement that is raising the profile of Asian-Americans in media, slowly but surely.
She said: "I think even Asian-Americans who feel like they are not represented, in a way I feel like they are a part of the movement too because they are making their voices heard.
"Maybe they haven't felt heard before and so I think we're all part of it. We're all linked in this journey to be a better, more inclusive person together."
Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Wu's Taiwanese-American background is modest but signifies the American Dream. Her father is a professor and her mother a computer engineer.
She said: "I am the daughter of immigrants. Growing up, my family was the only Asian family where we lived. I have three sisters who all have doctoral degrees. I'm like the dumb one of the family, but I found a sense of community in the local community theatres ever since I was a kid.
"Theatre people are kind of kooky and I love to sing and dance, so then I went to drama school. Then I did theatre and Shakespeare and regional theatre in New York."
She made a big change in her life by moving to Los Angeles because "a boy broke my heart so bad that I was like, 'I can't live in the same place as this person, so I am just going to fly across the country.'"
She recalled: "It was so irrational. I made that decision so impulsively that I was like crying and booking the ticket on my laptop, and I booked it for the wrong date.
"I meant to book it for Jan 3 and I accidentally booked it for Dec 3 and I didn't realise until I got an e-mail on Dec 2, check in for your flight, and I was like, whoops.
"So it has been quite a journey, for sure. This is my first studio film in my life, and I get to be the star of it, which is crazy."
Wu had never been to "beautiful" Singapore - where Crazy Rich Asians is set and was partially shot - before and loved the experience.
She said: "I actually felt like it was an Asian Beverly Hills in a way. There are a lot of beautiful stores and a lot of shopping, and there is also great food. I like the chicken satay and carrot cake.
"Our crew especially were so excited to be there. A lot of them were like, 'We've never seen our country represented this way, in a way we can be proud of', so they were so excited to work on it and that was just infectious. It was so nice to be around."
Wu bonded with the Singaporean actresses who were part of the supporting cast, including Tan Kheng Hua, Koh Chieng Mun, Janice Koh, Selena Tan and Amy Cheng.
"They were like your real aunties. They took care of you. They had these popiah parties. On our days off, they treated us like family. They'd have us over to their houses and we'd cook together.
"There is something really fun about making food with your hands with people that you love. They were really, really sweet," she said.
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.