Kevin Kwan, author of "Crazy Rich Asians," says that some producers wanted to whitewash his best-selling novel when it hit the big screen.
Kwan tells EW that in an early meeting with one producer, he was asked to change the main character Rachel (who is played by "Fresh Off the Boat" star Constance Wu in the film) to a white woman. "They wanted to change the heroine into a white girl. I was like, 'Well, you've missed the point completely.' I said, 'No, thank you.'"
In the film, which comes out August 17, 2018, Rachel is a Chinese-American woman who experiences culture shock when she goes to ultra-rich Singapore.
Luckily, readers and the right producers agreed with Kwan. The author tells EW that during his book tour, white female fans in Texas were appalled at the suggestion of changing Rachel's ethnicity. "What makes these people think that all we want to do is see the same white actors or actresses on screen?," said one. Kwan says, "To hear that reaction really confirmed for me what the audience wanted."
The film is produced by Nina Jacobson ("The Hunger Games.") Says Kwan, "[Nina] felt it was really important to tell the story and to have this message and to have that representation out there. That was in 2013, way before the whole Hollywood whitewashing movement happened."
Now, Kwan says he thinks the time is right for Asian representation. "I do think the tide is turning, and my personal experience as far as I'm concerned has always been a very positive one, from the very beginning. I had one of the top producers in Hollywood come to me wanting to make this movie and wanting to do it right, so I think the culture is shifting. They're seeing the importance of this."
Hard to believe, but this will be the first Hollywood studio movie with an all-Asian cast. Besides Wu, it stars Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan ("Humans"), Ken Jeong, and Harry Shum Jr.Jon M. Chu ("G.I. Joe: Retaliation," "Now You See Me 2") is directing.