For Australian actor Chris Pang, sitting in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre for the Crazy Rich Asians premiere was the moment it hit him – this humongous Hollywood film with a predominantly Asian-American cast was real.
“I actually got deeply emotional just seeing it because it’s something I never thought I would witness in my lifetime. It was a beautiful moment for representation.”
In 2018 alone, blockbusters Avengers: Infinity War, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the Ant-Man sequel all had their premieres at the Chinese Theatre, each bigger and more extravagant than the last.
And as its name would suggest, Crazy Rich Asians was no different.
“We closed down Hollywood Boulevard which is already a big deal,” Pang says. “I rocked up in a Lamborghini and that in itself was ridiculous, already.”
Based on the New York Times Bestselling novel by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is absolutely smashing it at the US Box Office. It currently tops the rankings with a total gross of almost $77 million USD.
The romantic comedy casts us into the life of New Yorker Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) who accompanies her secretly rich longtime boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to Singapore for his mate, Colin’s wedding.
Tentatively entering the first-class seating on the plane, Rachel is just a tad surprised to learn Nick belongs to one of the wealthiest families in Singapore, flinging her into a world of extreme decadence.
Chuck in Nick’s disapproving mother and you’ve got yourself the perfect romantic comedy – with an all Asian cast, the very first in 25 long years.
Pang, who plays Nick’s mate Colin Khoo in the romcom, first copped his big break in the 2010 Aussie action film Tomorrow, When The War Began as Lee Takkam.
Now, Pang’s swapped guns and gore for one of the most fabulous weddings in cinematic history and after playing Colin the groom, it’s really put the pressure on any real life future plans.
“I’ve experienced one of the most glamorous weddings to grace the screen and now I don’t think I can even compare – I feel like there’s just no point.”
In the eight years since TWTWB, the actor has spent his time searching for roles that could “authentically represent my culture, background, and story” but as he knows, these aren’t the easiest to come by which is why Crazy Rich Asians is so important.
“It’s not an action film, there’s no martial arts, it’s just a romcom – it’s just a good time in a cinema,” Pang says.
In this Hollywood film, the Asian women are strong-willed, confident, loud and independent, the Asian men are attractive, they’re charming, full of colour, and they’re the romantic leads.
Pang tells of the time director, Jon M. Chu, would hold the camera just an extra second on Pierre Png‘s abs during a scene.
“It may seem or sound superficial but it means so much for representation to be changing the Asian male stereotype where usually, we’re not portrayed as the ‘attractive’ one in the movies.
“I’m just so proud, not just to be a part of this film, but the start of a movement because we’re really trying to make a change here in Hollywood.
“Hopefully we see more sexy Asian men on screen.”
And as for that sequel talk, all Pang could really tell us was “it’s in development”. But as incredible as this is, the biggest honour for the actor will always be the effect the film has on the Asian community around the world.
“What’s amazing is, I’m getting all these messages flooding in. People just sending me beautiful heartfelt messages about what it means to see themselves reflected on screen – something they’ve never seen before. And that is the most rewarding thing.”
Crazy Rich Asians is in cinemas, now.