Last year, something that has not been expected by Hollywood and the film industry became a noticeable reality. Warner Bros. Pictures at the time had released “Crazy Rich Asian,” a cinematic adaptation of the same-named novel by Kevin Kwan starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding and Michelle Yeoh, became the first Hollywood film since the 1990s with a majority Asian-descent cast, and would go on to be a blockbuster, also gaining award nominations in the 76th Golden Globes as well as wins in the 24th Critics’ Choice and 25th Screen Actors Guild this January. It was obvious then that sequel based on further books by Kwan will be produced. Unfortunately, their development has hit a snag.
The Hollywood Reporter reveals in an exclusive that Adele Lim, co-writer of the “Crazy Rich Asians” screenplay with Peter Chiarelli, has departed from the project despite returning director Jon M. Chu’s efforts to keep the original writing team of the 2018 film together for the sequels, “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.” And the reason for this is the fact that Chiarelli is receiving a much higher writing fee to work on the follow-ups. The pay disparity, according to Lim, has taken on undertones of Hollywood creators with Asian descent being less-compensated than “whites.”
Outside sources have filled in the monetary details of the issue, as Lim did not elaborate on the pay disparity she spoke of. Apparently, for the over $110,000 fee paid to Lim, a seasoned TV-show writer who first broke into the big screen with “Crazy Rich Asians,” her collaborator Chiarelli is being given anywhere from $800,000 to a million dollars. A Warner Bros. business affairs statement notes the fees are industry-standard based on experience, and Chiarelli has been writing for movies for much longer than Lim had, a position backed by studio chairman Toby Emmerich.
Adele Lim, born in Malaysia of Malayan Chinese descent, was noted to have left the “Crazy Rich Asians” project in the fall of 2018. Warner then approached her again in February with a closer-parity deal after failing to find a replacement Asian-descent writer, but Lim declined the new offer after learning that it was due to Peter Chiarelli splitting his own fee with her, in the opinion that it was a “white-guy generosity” gesture and not studio-mandated. This has presented problems in development for a sequel treatment, with Jon M. Chu having to help Chiarelli without Lim’s input. The fact that the film version of “Crazy Rich” had significant ending deviations from Kevin Kwan’s original book did not help either.
Lim first got into TV writing for the syndicated adventure series “Xena: Warrior Princess,” and has since worked in shows such as “One Tree Hill,’ “Private Practice,” “Lethal Weapon” and more. “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems” will be filmed back-to-back starting in 2020.
Image courtesy of Washington Post