Unless you’ve been living under a rock with no internet service, then you’ve heard about what a huge hit Crazy Rich Asians was for everyone involved. A sequel was pretty much a given, but now the production has a major wrinkle.
Adele Lim–who co-wrote the first movie–has quit the project! Find out why below.
As with most Hollywood stories, this one comes down to money. Screenwriter Adele Lim decided to walk away from the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians because she was offered 10 times less than her white, male co-writer from the first movie.
Director Jon M. Chu originally asked Lim to be part of the team because he was concerned about the film being written by Peter Chiarelli alone. After she left, it took the studio five months to find other Asian writers to come on board.
While Chiarelli was offered between $800,000-$1,000,000 for his work on the sequel, Lim was reportedly only offered about $110,000. A source told The Hollywood Reporter that the figures were allegedly “industry-standard established ranges based on experience.”
Let’s take a look at that experience, shall we? Peter Chiarelli only has 4 credits as a writer on his IMDb page: The Proposal, Now You See Me 2, Crazy Rich Asians, and the upcoming film Spaghetti Versus Noodle, which sounds like a potentially racist disaster about “Italians fighting with Chinese over who invented spaghetti.”
Adele Lim, on the other hand, has 14 credits as a writer, although the vast majority of them are for TV. In addition to writing Crazy Rich Asians, she wrote episodes for everything from Reign to One Tree Hill, as well as the upcoming Disney animated film Raya and the Last Dragon starring Awkwafina.
A little Googling also reveals that Chiarelli is a bearded white guy who graduated from the University of Washington. Adele Lim–like many of the characters in Crazy Rich Asians–was born and raised in Malaysia and is of Chinese descent.
Now, which one of those writers is more qualified to pen the sequel to one of the most successful rom-coms of the last 10 years? Chiarelli has The Proposal on his resume, which was the highest-grossing romantic comedy the year it came out.
But given how important it was to both the talent behind Crazy Rich Asians and the audience that as many actual Asians were involved in the production as possible, it seems clear that Lim is the MVP of that writing team. So why was she offered 10 times less money for the job?
Chiarella reportedly offered to split his salary with Lim several months after she left in order to tempt her back, but she turned him down.
“Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” she told The Hollywood Reporter, “Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer.
If I couldn’t get pay equity after CRA, I can’t imagine what it would be like for anyone else, given that the standard for how much you’re worth is having established quotes from previous movies, which women of color would never have been [hired for].
There’s no realistic way to achieve true equity that way.”
Director Chu voiced his support for Lim in a lengthy Twitter post, and even praises her courage for standing up for her worth. “I agree with Adele that parity for women and people of color is crucial to the continued enlightenment of our industry and we still have a long way to go,” Chu wrote.
Stars Gemma Chan, Henry Golding, and Awkwafina also stand with Lim. However, it does not appear that the writer has any interest in returning to the project.