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Director Lulu Wang Was Told 'You Need A White Guy' In 'The Farewell'

Wang director resisted pressures to whitewash the film about a Chinese family.
Awkwafina, left, with director Lulu Wang. 
Awkwafina, left, with director Lulu Wang. 

Given rave reviews and a box office record set by “The Farewell,” it’s almost unimaginable to think of the movie with a different cast. 

But in a recent interview with IndieWire, director Lulu Wang revealed that some had an *alternative* view of what the movie would look like. 

Wang told the outlet that multiple U.S. financiers recommended the director add a prominent white character to the mix. When the director connected with a Chinese financier, hoping to hear a different opinion, she found herself again disappointed. 

“This Chinese producer was like, ‘You need a white guy in your movie,’” Wang told IndieWire.

Wang clearly did not need a major white character to ensure the film’s success. Opening initially in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles earlier this month, it has set the 2019 box-office mark for best per-screen-average ― a huge $87,833, according to Variety. That surpassed what had been the year’s high ― the $76,601 per location that “Avengers: Endgame” took in. (The makers of the Disney-Marvel film aren’t complaining ― it opened in 4,662 North American theaters.) 

“The Farewell,” which stars rapper and actress Awkwafina as a struggling artist, Billi, who travels from the U.S. to China to see her dying grandmother. But Billi is compelled to follow her Chinese family’s ruse and keep her grandmother’s stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis a secret from “Nai Nai” herself.

In a previous interview with HuffPost, Wang said her intention was to tell a story behind “a family that both feels very Chinese, but also still feels very, very American — and in a character that feels very, like, iconic New Yorker.” But, she said, many producers and executives sought to categorize the tale as either Chinese or American. 

She eventually drew producer Chris Weitz’s attention after she told her story on a 2016 episode of “This American Life.” Weitz helped secure funding for the film so that Wang could reflect the straddling of two cultures she envisioned.

The movie has expanded to a few more markets and it launches nationwide on Aug. 2.

 

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