Progress has been slow for the highly-anticipated, back-to-back sequels of Jon M. Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asians” after co-writer Adele Lim reportedly left the project over a massive pay disparity issue.
Lim, who worked with Peter Chiarelli in adapting Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel to a global blockbuster, had a starting offer of $100,000-plus for the sequels, sources told the Hollywood Reporter.
In contrast, Chiarelli, who broke out for writing “The Proposal” — starring Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock — was offered $800,000 to $1 million, sources said.
Lim, who had never penned a feature, was told that the figures are established, industry-standard ranges based on experience, though she had years of writing experience for TV (“One Tree Hill,” “Life on Mars,” “Private Practice,” “Reign” and “Dynasty,” among others).
“Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” Lim told THR, adding that women and people of color are often regarded as “soy sauce” that “sprinkle” culturally-specific details, instead of receiving credit for actually crafting a story.
To complicate matters, the Malaysian-born writer has also been working with Disney for its Southeast Asian mythology-inspired “Raya and the Last Dragon,” though she reportedly said that the studio was willing to make adjustments to accommodate her schedule.
Color Force, one of the producers of “Crazy Rich Asians,” spent roughly five months looking for other Asian writers to fill Lim’s place, but returned to her with an offer closer to parity with Chiarelli, who reportedly offered to split his fee for her.
“Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the White-guy writer,” Lim told THR. “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.”
Producers Nina Jacobson and Brad Simpson had already enlisted Chiarelli to work on the script even before Chu joined the project. The director then tapped Lim to join Chiarelli as the film includes a female protagonist — Constance Wu’s Rachel Chu — and he wanted a female perspective in the writer’s room.
“But Jon, to his credit, knew that he had a female protagonist and he wanted a female point of view. When I came on, we basically talked about how I grew up in this culture,” Lim told the Los Angeles Times last year.
This is not the first pay dispute involving Asian talent in Hollywood. Two years ago, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park left “Hawaii Five-O” after CBS Television Studios refused to raise their salaries to match those of their White co-stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan.
In an open letter to fans, Kim, who most recently appeared in “Always Be My Maybe” with Ali Wong and Randall Park, wrote at the time, “I encourage us all to look beyond the disappointment of this moment to the bigger picture. The path to equality is rarely easy.”
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Chiarelli, who is now writing with Chu, reportedly delivered the first draft of a 10-page work to Color Force in July. Instead of keeping up with a timeline, the team is focused on “getting the story right,” Chu told THR.
The sequels, based on the second and third books of Kwan’s trilogy — “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems” — are yet to have their official big-screen titles.
“The sequels will not be boring!” Chu told Hollywood Life earlier this year. “They will not be the same old same old. They will push further.”
Featured Images via Instagram / @crazyrichasians (Left) and @adeleblim (Right)