Constance Wu’s “top billing”

Lainey Posted by Lainey at July 26, 2019 15:49:20 July 26, 2019 15:49:20

Two months ago, after the television networks announced their cancellations and renewals for the upcoming season, and ABC confirmed the return of Fresh Off The Boat, Constance Wu popped off on Twitter and was widely criticised both by the public and by many of her peers, other actors and creatives who mocked her for moaning over the tragedy of still having a job. Constance’s attempt at damage control (“believe women”) wasn’t a great look either. This was especially disappointing because up to that point, Constance was an outspoken badass, calling out inequality in the business and challenging those who had more power, like Matt Damon, even before the success of Crazy Rich Asians

Then the pile-on. Before she complained on Twitter about having to go back to work on Fresh Off The Boat, nobody was looking to start sh-t about Constance Wu being an asshole. After that came the stories about how unpleasant she is to people on the set of FOTB and how she was that bitch on Crazy Rich Asians. As I wrote at the time, it would be interesting to see how Constance would work to rebound off that stumble. 

The release of the Hustlers trailer was good news last week. Reaction seems generally positive, I can’t wait to see it. And at the end, when the credits come up, you’ll note that Constance’s name is listed first. 

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Credits are always negotiated. The producers don’t just get to decide whose name to throw up there first. It’s about the story, of course, but then it’s about what’s specifically noted in the contract. The biggest star in Hustlers is undeniably Jennifer Lopez, and she’s also a producer. But if you’re going by the acting credits, with Constance’s name at the top, the story is presumably told through Constance’s experience, which we learn from the first scene, when JLo is showing her how to work the pole.  And yes, it is alphabetical by first name.  But from a storytelling perspective, this tracks. You often want to ground the narrative through the lens of the “novice”, the person who’s just entering the world, so that you can introduce and build that world for the audience. Constance’s agents would have angled for that to be represented when they were securing her deal – that is their job, that’s what they SHOULD be doing. Yes, Jennifer Lopez is the superstar here but Constance’s representatives are representing Constance. If she is carrying the load of the story, absolutely they should be advocating for her credit and her pay to reflect that. So far, so good. If only we stopped there. But of course we didn’t. 

According to Page Six:

Fresh from her “Fresh Off the Boat” renewal drama, reps for the “Crazy Rich Asians” star’s new film have contacted multiple media outlets to ensure Wu is listed as the headliner for “Hustlers,” above co-stars Lopez — who also produced the film — and Cardi B, Page Six has learned. The film, based on the real story of savvy strippers out for revenge on their Wall Street clients, also stars Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart and Lizzo.

While “Hustlers” premieres in September, select publications have been walloped with a warning from the studio that Wu must be named first in the press as the film’s biggest star. A source said Lopez and her production partners signed off on Wu’s top billing “a long time ago,” adding, “Constance is in the unique position of being a part of projects that are breaking through Asian-American representation in Hollywood.”

Basically her people have supposedly been reaching out to media outlets insisting that Constance’s name be mentioned in their coverage before JLo and the others. Her publicist is now refuting the claim…sort of?

“Constance had no knowledge or awareness of acts on her behalf of Hustlers to have reporting mirror that of the film’s castings or contractual billings,” a rep for Wu tells Us Weekly exclusively. “Representatives associated with her and the film did engage media outlets to correct misrepresentations of the film’s characters and castings in the spirit of calibrating credits to accurately reflect the guidelines set forth in standard legal contracts.”

“While Constance’s character in Hustlers is the key protagonist, any reporting that implies or indicates that she demanded or directed this recently reported initiative is patently untrue and a clear manipulation of facts,” the rep clarifies. “She has always been and remains a proud supporter of all her fellow castmates inclusion in the celebration of this film and telling of this story.”

Jesus that’s a lot of words complicated together to make a terrible salad. And there’s really no need for it unless… well… you’re trying to rationalise something? 

Here’s what they’re trying to say: 

Right off the top, we’re being told that Constance didn’t know any of this. But then we find out that reps did actually contact media outlets to “correct misrepresentations of the film’s characters and castings in the spirt of calibrating credits to accurately reflect the guidelines set forth in standard legal contracts”. 

Um, thank you for all that alliteration. Also, this is pretty much a fancy admission that they DID actually reach out to the media to make sure their coverage adhered to the “guidelines set forth in legal contracts” which likely stated that Constance gets top billing in the movie!

Isn’t this basically a confirmation of Page Six’s story?!?!?

The only difference here is that their version is a lot less direct and that Constance apparently didn’t know that they were doing what they were doing. And if that’s the case, man, Constance might want to consider re-strategising with her management because these people are not making her look good. By the way, they’re the ones who are most likely to read this and get mad at it and yell at me and if that’s the case, go ahead, yell, but also maybe think about whether or not you’ve been showing your work because I’m pretty sure this was not the intended result? Why is this such poor quality communications work? 

I wonder how all this went down. Here’s my theory: if you google “Hustlers trailer”, you’ll bring up several pages of articles published the day the trailer came out. Here’s an example of a headline. 

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You’ll note, Constance’s name is not in the headline. And IndieWire is a trade publication. Constance is named in the story but here’s how her name shows up:

Alongside Lopez, Scafaria has also cast breakouts and standbys like Constance Wu, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, Lili Reinhart, Trace Lysette, and Madeline Brewer.

This is how The Hollywood Reporter covered the release of the Hustlers trailer:

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Constance shows up in the headline but only after JLo and Cardi B, both bigger stars in the culture but Cardi’s role in particular is smaller in the film. You get the idea. 

Were Constance and/or her people pissed that she was getting lost in the coverage? Is that why and how all this went down? 

Look, I have an ego too. And I won’t pretend that if I were in her position and I was, in the story, the main character, and nobody was paying attention to it, that I wouldn’t feel a way about it, that it wouldn’t sting a bit. Feeling that way and acting on it are two different things. There’s very little upside to acting on it, at least not yet, at least not now. Now, when it’s just the trailer that’s come out, and promotion is the goal, and you promote by using the names you think will attract more people, before people have seen the movie, is it the right time to play that card?  For sure, totally, we should “give credit where credit is due”. And when the movie comes out and Constance is indeed what I suspect – the actor who carries the load of the story, the emotional core – and these headlines are still the same, overlooking her contribution? One hundred percent I’d be out here calling it out. 

But I think you have to let that play out, let the WORK do the talking first, let the performance be the evidence first, and THEN get your reps out there being all like …hey, WTF, did you not see what she did on this project, did you not see why she has top billing? Did you not see how she earned that spot at the top of the list? That would have been my play. But only then. And it’s only 6 weeks away. Why did they pull the trigger on it so early?

Photos:
Andrew Toth/ Getty Images

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