It was reported yesterday that, due the critical and commercial success of Crazy Rich Asians, the sequels are now in development, with Jon M Chu back to direct. That does not mean there’s a greenlight yet though. It means that the studio has told them to start working on the story, which represents their interest in investing in China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, the second and third installments in the CRA series.
That’s great news, right? Yes. It is great news. So… why am I a little annoyed? Well, first, this – from The Hollywood Reporter, I’ve bolded the part that I’m bumping up against:
Warner Bros. has not yet officially greenlighted the sequel (it's standard practice for a studio to take a wait-and-see approach with a new potential franchise) but is moving forward on development. The studio and its CEO and chairman Kevin Tsujihara took a risk by greenlighting a comp-less film starring an all-Asian cast and a very specific story set in Singapore, but with the massive opening weekend results, a strong performance in weeks to come will all but guarantee the sequel is a go.
If words matter and the way we talk about things matter then how much longer will we have to read about specific storytelling and representative storytelling as “a risk”? As Sarah wrote the other day in her post about the CRA box office, it’s already been proven that diversity is good for business. Inclusion is good for business. Anything that’s good for business isn’t a “risk”. Continuing to call it a “risk”, then, perpetuates the fallacy that supporting and financing these stories is risky, that there’s something to be afraid of. Do people walk around calling Adam Sandler movies a “risk”? They’re sh-tty movies that are making less and less money. When it’s announced that someone’s giving him money again to do even more movies, how come nobody’s describing it as a “risk”?
And while we’re at it, would this have happened if Crazy Rich Asians had just met expectations instead of overachieving? Adam Sandler doesn’t have to overachieve to keep getting opportunities. It’s like what we’ve often talked about on magazine covers, like Vogue. If you’re Blake Lively or Sienna Miller or Jessica Biel, you get on the cover of Vogue for, well, no Oscars or major industry achievements. If you’re a woman of colour on the cover of Vogue, you’re either the first lady, Oprah, Beyoncé, Rihanna, or Lupita Nyong’o. That’s the level accomplishment that’s required. Where are the WoC Blake and Sienna equivalents who are showing up on the cover of Vogue? Can a moderately or even barely successful movie starring people of colour be guaranteed new money and more chances the way the Adam Sandlers of the world are?
Look, I don’t mean to be a crusty bitch about what is definitely a step forward. And this is not really about being negative, it’s about having perspective about goalposts, and who gets to set them.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about China Rich Girlfriend. Jon is committed to directing the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In The Heights next. That’s due out in June 2020. I haven’t seen any updates on casting or when shooting will begin. So even though it obvious that they have an idea of where to take the CRA story, it seems like it’ll still be a while before Jon can focus on it, let alone getting the script to the point for a formal greenlight. Next summer seems ambitious given all that scheduling. So maybe they shoot in 2020 for a 2021 release? What will the industry look like then? Who will the industry look like? By the time China Rich Girlfriend comes out, will it be much more common to see major Hollywood productions featuring all Asian Americans and South Asians and other underrepresented communities in lead roles?
Will I get my cameo?!?
If you’ve read China Rich Girlfriend, a crass asshole called “Lainey Lui” shows up to throw down a few curses. To anyone out there listening, I am making myself available.
Here’s what Jon posted on Instagram this morning, continuing to celebrate the week that Crazy Rich Asians has had:
This, of course is important on many levels. To see an Asian leading man, check. But also? A leading man in a romantic comedy becoming a movie star – used to happen all the time but it hasn’t happened in a while. It’s happening to Henry Golding.