In 2018, director Jon M Chu brought the Kevin Kwan novel Crazy Rich Asians to the big screen. Highlighting a predominantly Asian cast, it not only became the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s but also highlighted Asian representation in mainstream cinema.
The movie also encouraged an influx of Asian-led projects across film and TV – even Everything Everywhere All at Once's Ke Huy Quan credits the romantic comedy as his inspiration to return to acting, leading to his triumphant win at the Oscars earlier this year.
Fast-forward five years and a potential sequel has yet to be released, let alone a trailer. A sequel feels inevitable as Crazy Rich Asians is the first instalment of a trilogy – the second and third books, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems respectively, branch out into other complicated romantic situations while developing the relationship between Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding), so there is potentially more for fans to see and enjoy.
So what's the hold-up?
In 2018, producer Nina Richardson announced plans to make the sequel and threequel back-to-back to reduce the wait time between the three films. But COVID happened so those plans were shut down pretty quickly.
But the pandemic is not the only reason – since its original release, everyone has gone on to have prolific careers. Wu had a starring role in the 2019 crime drama Hustlers, while Gemma Chan, Awkwafina and Michelle Yeoh have made appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And let's not forget Yeoh has been winning heaps of awards for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once. With so many cast members in high demand, schedules are bound to fill quickly.
Many will be watching to see whether Yeoh, now even more hotly in demand, will reprise her CRA role as matriarch Eleanor Young. After her historic win at this year's Academy Awards, she will be appearing in Disney+'s upcoming series American-Born Chinese, Netflix series The Brothers Sun, and Kenneth Branagh's A Haunting in Venice, as well as Jon M Chu's screen adaptation of Wicked. Naturally, she is one super-busy bee.
But like any film, the cast is only a small part of a production. Fans would also need to consider the return of the film's principal crew, and, especially, the director and screenwriter. This is where Crazy Rich Asians 2 has had some issues.
In 2019, initial plans for the sequel were disrupted when Crazy Rich Asians co-screenwriter Adele Lim left the project after it was revealed that she would be paid a substantially lower fee than co-screenwriter Peter Chiarelli.
In an article by The Hollywood Reporter, her comments surrounding her departure emphasised the lack of opportunities for people of colour in Hollywood: "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 colour would never have been [hired for]."
Meanwhile, Chiarelli was eventually replaced by Chinese Australian screenwriter Amy Wang, who won a Cannes Lion award for her short film Unnatural in 2018. As for Lim, she will be releasing her directorial debut, the comedy Joy Ride starring Ashley Park and Stephanie Hsu, in cinemas this August.
Speaking of directors, Jon M Chu has turned his attention to directing cinematic adaptations of popular musicals. After adapting Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway show In the Heights in 2021, he is currently directing the two-part adaptation of Wicked starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo and has just signed up to direct an adaptation of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
With so much on his plate, it is unlikely that he will have time in the next few years to direct the sequel, let alone the threequel, both of which were originally supposed to be filmed back-to-back (unless he becomes one with the multiverse…).
However, there is hope on the horizon for fans, especially those who want to see more of Astrid (Gemma Chan) and Charlie Wu (Harry Shum Jr), whose romance was teased during the end credits of CRA. The short-yet-sweet appearance of the handsome stranger (Charlie) at the end of the film may confuse audiences, but fans of the books will know he is Astrid's ex-boyfriend, and their blossoming relationship runs parallel with Rachel and Nick's.
Plans for a spin-off that focuses on Astrid and Charlie's relationship were announced in May 2022, which will be written by Barry screenwriter Jason Kim. However, Chan is reportedly working on a couple of projects, including a biopic of iconic Chinese American actress Anna May Wong. Shum is a series regular on the latest series of Grey's Anatomy as intern Benson 'Blue' Kwan, so the release of this spin-off is also yet to be confirmed.
The spin-off may appease fans wanting more of Kwan's version of the Singapore elite (not to mention one of the trilogy's more notable romances), as well as alleviate the pressure of CRA's remaining cast returning to the trilogy.
Meanwhile, Golding will be appearing in the upcoming Netflix sequel The Old Guard 2 and Guy Ritchie's new spy film The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare while Awkwafina has four projects this year alone, including the upcoming live-action adaptation of Disney's The Little Mermaid and an untitled comedy co-starring Sandra Oh.
In an interview with earlier this year, Shum provided an optimistic update: "I think at this point they're writing it and trying to just get it right. So as far as I know now, I don't know any concrete date of when it would go, but I'm just as excited as the audience to get this going."
Before its release, Crazy Rich Asians was considered a gamble for Hollywood, as it was the first Asian-led film in Western cinema since the 1993 drama The Joy Luck Club. Its critical and financial success proved that Asians can be big box-office material, so it is a shame that the ongoing delays see the franchise missing out on the wave of increased Asian representation in Western entertainment – a wave that it helped to create.
With so many variables at play, it may be possible that Crazy Rich Asians 2 will take a little longer to bring the band back together. But it wouldn't be the first sequel to take ages to continue a franchise, so fingers crossed that audiences will one day see Rachel Chu and Nick Young get their ultra-glamorous fairytale ending.
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