Michelle Yeoh was a big fan of Kevin Kwan’s novel for Crazy Rich Asians, but when she received Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim’s script, “I was very upset” the actress told the crowd at Deadline’s The Contenders London today.
“Eleanor (Young) was written as nasty, mean, mean, not nice at all. I don’t think that Eleanor comes from that motivation,” Yeoh said.
In the movie, Eleanor makes waves for her son Nick Young (Henry Golding) and Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), both who are intent to get engaged. Eleanor looks down on Rachel given her American roots. Meanwhile, Rachel believes that Eleanor isn’t impressed with her because she’s from a lower class.
“I don’t think that Eleanor comes from motivation. She comes from the love of her son and what it takes to be the wife and the strength that’s necessary when you put the needs of your family before your own,” said Yeoh.
Because Rachel is very independent, Eleanor’s take is that she’s not steeped in the traditions of Singapore or Hong Kong. “In her own way, Eleanor was trying to scare Rachel from the journey,” said Yeoh.
So how did Yeoh get over Eleanor’s interpretation? “Fortunately Jon M. Chu is one of the most amazing directors I’ve worked and he is tremendously persuasive,” says the actress.
“I told him it would be an injustice to all the mothers in the world that mothers are only mean, they are really coming from another side, which is love.” Chu eased Yeoh, telling her that he knew what Eleanor was talking about. He had parents who were from Taiwan and set in their traditional ways. “‘I know all the key points you’re talking about,’ he told me and changed my mind. They re-wrote the script with the understanding of what it means to have strength for all the women who were in the movie.”
Crazy Rich Asians has been a huge success for Warner Bros. Not only has it been hugely profitable making over $227M worldwide off a $30M production cost, but it has shown, much like Black Panther before it this year, that there is a demand for diverse-storytelling on the big screen.