You Don't Have to Be Crazy, Rich, or Asian to Love Kevin Kwan's Story

June 6, 2018

By Jacqueline Corba and Alisha Haridasani

Filmgoers don't have to be crazy, rich, or Asian to be excited about the soon-to-be-released romantic comedy "Crazy Rich Asians," based on the best-selling book by Kevin Kwan.

In fact, the author told Cheddar's Hope King that the off-the-wall characters and relationship themes will be familiar enough for some audiences and different enough for others to justify the near universal excitement for the movie.

"People are sick of seeing the same five faces in Hollywood movies, or reading the same plot line," Kwan said. "I think my book offered a whole new adventure to a whole new world. It's exotic, but at the same time universal."

Warner Bros. won a bidding war for the movie rights to the book two years ago, and the production starring Constance Wu and Henry Golding is set to be released Aug. 15 ー two days sooner than originally planned because of strong interest from Kwan's fans.

"This movie has attracted so much attention, because it's so historic in that way," Kwan said.

The movie is the first contemporary feature from a major Hollywood studio with an all-Asian cast since "The Joy Luck Club" was released in 1993. It is also the first Hollywood romantic comedy to feature Asian protagonists, said Kwan.

Fans of the books (Kwan wrote a trilogy) and some critics are likening the enthusiasm for the movie among Asians and Asian-Americans to the excitement among African-Americans for the superhero blockbuster "Black Panther." Though Kwan acknowledged it's difficult to compare a rom-com with a big-budget action movie.

“It can’t be the movie for everyone, you know what I mean, to be that 'Black Panther,'" he said.

"Crazy Rich Asians" tells the story of Nicholas Young, the son of one of Singapore's wealthiest families, and his girlfriend, Rachel Chu, a New York University professor.

Nicholas takes Rachel to visit his family in Singapore, where she discovers that her beau is practically royalty and part of a social clique full of over-the-top characters who jet around in private planes dressed head-to-toe in Gucci, Hermes, and Roger Vivier.

Rachel is the outsider who must contend with Nicholas's hard-to-please parents and jealous, scheming women determined to steal her man, who is considered one of Singapore's most eligible bachelors.

Kwan's story breaks from the stereotypical portrayal of many Asian characters in American movies and books as nerds with a weak grasp of English. The characters in this movie are crazy and rich, for sure, but they're also modern, proud Asians that many people will recognize.

"There was this beautiful, attractive, well put together, 30-something Asian American woman who came up to me at a reading in San Francisco and she said 'thank you for finally writing a book that makes me proud of who I am,'" said Kwan, who was born in Singapore and moved to the U.S. when he was 11. "That was just so touching for me to hear."

The trailer for the movie has racked up close to 6.9 million views on YouTube since it was released near the end of April. Kwon's book, published in 2013, is part of a trilogy that together have over a million copies in print in the U.S.

But for Kwan, the numbers aren't as significant as the cultural symbolism of the movie itself. "The fact that it even exists, at this point, that's already a success," he said.

"Everything that happens, for me, going forward is gravy."

For full interview, click here.