Jon M. Chu responded to the news of “Crazy Rich Asians” co-writer Adele Lim’s departure from the franchise after it was revealed Lim left the project due to a substantial pay disparity between the Malaysia-born screenwriter and white co-writer Peter Chiarelli.
Chu, who shared a written statement on Twitter, wrote that “you bet your ass I stand with Adele!”
“I believed in her before we ever shot the movie and believe in her beyond,” Chu wrote. “As many of you can imagine, negotiations are tough and more often than not mess ― no matter who you are in this industry.”
Being close with Lim, the director explained that when he learned she was not pleased with the initial pay offer, he, the producers, and some studio executives “leapt into action to ensure we got to a place of parity between the two writers at a significant number.”
The Hollywood Reporter reported last week that for the hit film’s sequels, Lim received a starting offer of $110,000-plus from Warner Bros. while Chiarelli’s ranged from $800,000 to $1 million.
The studio reportedly rationalized the disparity, given that the industry has traditionally set ranges based on experience. Lim’s first screenwriting credit was the 2018 rom-com hit. Chiarelli’s credits include 2009’s “The Proposal” and 2016’s “Now You See Me 2.”
Chu added that by the time the group had come up with “several different ways to satisfy everyone’s needs, a lot of time had passed and she declined the offer.”
“These things happen in negotiations, and I’m proud that she was able to stand up for her own measure of worth and walk away when she felt like she was being undervalued,” he wrote.
While the director said he agreed with Lim in that pay parity is necessary for the “continued enlightenment” of the industry and Hollywood still needs work in the aspect, he said what he’s “discovered personally through this process is there are still things to debate amongst ourselves (like the value of experience vs lack of opportunity, tv vs film writing, work experience vs life experience, creative contribution valuations etc) which I am sure won’t be simple answers but I know we must try to figure it out to keep the needle moving.”
Lim expressed her appreciation for Chu and others involved in the culturally impactful movie on Twitter. Others from the cast, including Gemma Chan and Awkwafina, tweeted their support of both Lim and Chu.
According to The Hollywood Reporter’s account of events, the studio refused to deviate from the old-school standard of setting pay ranges based on experience, a decision backed by chairman Toby Emmerich. Although Chiarelli offered to split his fee, prompting the studio to approach Lim with a more equal bid, Lim stood firm on her decision.
“Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer,” she told The Hollywood Reporter.