Crazy Rich Asians doesn't hit the theaters until August 2018, but the movie is making waves with its casting for all the right reasons. The Warner Bros. project reportedly cast an all-Asian principal cast for the film, based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan. The Crazy Rich Asians book was a bestseller and spawned two sequels: China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems.
It seems pretty logical that a story about an Asian couple and an Asian family would cast Asian actors for these roles. Unfortunately, Hollywood has a history of whitewashing. Meaning, the placement of a white-passing actor in a role that was originally written for a character of color. Some egregious examples include Scarlett Johansson as Major in Ghost in the Shell. The studio of that movie later admitted that casting Johansson was a mistake. Major was Japanese in the original manga and anime versions of the story.
Jon M. Chu, who directed Crazy Rich Asians, told Entertainment Weekly that he stands by his decision to keep the cast entirely Asian. This casting shouldn't be controversial, but the practice still occurs with upsetting regularity in Hollywood. During the casting process, Chu was also able to compile a list of Asian actors who are ready and willing to work. "I think we now have the deepest database of Asian actors that speak English in the world. It was worth it. The best thing we ever did on this movie was cast this cast," he told EW.
The author of the story, Kevin Kwan, reportedly felt pressure to whitewash his characters. EW writes that "during one early meeting with one potential producer who wanted to adapt the novel, Kwan says he was even asked to reimagine his protagonist as a white woman. “I was like, ‘Well, you’ve missed the point completely,’ ” he recalls. “I said, ‘No, thank you.’ ”
Ultimately, the movie may be about Asian people, but its themes are universal. Chu says that "it’s just such a beautiful story, to show an Asian-American immigrant going back to Asia and finding the things that overlap and connect us all, things like family, things like love."