Here’s to the power of social media movements.
In a Kore Asian media video released on Monday, Jon M. Chu, the director of 2018′s box-office smash “Crazy Rich Asians,” and John Cho, star of last year’s widely acclaimed film “Searching,” sat down for a chat about Asian-Americans’ trajectory in Hollywood and their own careers.
Chu revealed to the actor that the #StarringJohnCho movement deeply resonated with him and pushed him to take on “Crazy Rich Asians,” a film lauded for its all-Asian cast. The movement, spearheaded by digital strategist William Yu in 2016, reimagined Hollywood blockbusters like “Jurassic Park” and “The Martian” with Cho as the lead.
“One of the first things that made me want to make a movie like [“Crazy Rich Asians”] was the #StarringJohnCho movement. I remember at the time, they started inserting your face into all those movie posters ... it was as if a light turned on,” Chu told Cho.
“Because you are you ― you are a leading man, you are the leading man, you could have been in any of those movies but for some reason it wouldn’t cross our minds,” Chu added. “It was such a weird mirror that went into my head when I saw that.”
When mulling over the Hollywood landscape, the director said he realized he was one of the few people who had the power to elevate Asian actors and help them join the ranks of high-profile stars. Seeing Cho make it in the entertainment industry, Chu said, made it possible to imagine Asian-American faces as industry legends like those of the golden age of Hollywood.
“I’m one of the few people who actually are on the ground, makes movies, I can literally say ‘I want to cast this person’ and go to battle for whatever that is,” Chu said.
Chu previously told HuffPost that “Crazy Rich Asians” marked the first film he’s directed that relates to the Asian-American identity. He admitted that earlier in his life, he dealt with identity struggles and confronting his own “Asian-Americanness.”
“The reason I did this movie and the reason why it took so long for me to explore this as an artist, explore my cultural identity, was because it was such a sensitive part of my heart and my soul,” he said in that interview.
Social media campaigns, like #StarringJohnCho, and the growing voices of Asian-Americans fighting for representation shifted his outlook considerably.
“I am a complete, residual effect of people speaking out,” he told HuffPost. “I was someone who wasn’t awake to those things only because I had my head down to the ground.”