How do you write a $30 million major motion picture for Warner Bros. when you've never written a movie before? For television writer and producer Adele Lim, transferring her talents from the small screen to the big screen for director Jon M. Chu's romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians was--understandably--a little bit crazy. Lim has written for shows like One Tree Hill and Reign, but a summer studio film was a bigger project than anything she'd ever done before.
Crazy Rich Asians, which hit theaters Wednesday, tells the story of a New Yorker named Rachel (Constance Wu) who visits her boyfriend Nick's (Henry Golding) home country of Singapore for his best friend's wedding. Their adventure turns sour when Rachel learns Nick comes from one of the wealthiest families in the country, and struggles to find her place in their world.
Though it's still too early to say whether Crazy Rich Asians will be a hit, the film is off to a great start, collecting more than $5 million in its first two days. The critical reception has also been very favorable, with the film earning a 93 percent fresh score on rating site Rotten Tomatoes.
Lim definitely had help in co-writer Peter Chiarelli and the fact that the project was based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, but she was still a first-timer on the biggest assignment of her career. What's more, Crazy Rich Asians is making history as the first Hollywood movie in 25 years to feature a predominantly Asian cast that isn't a period piece.
One of the ways Lim ensured she didn't squander her opportunity to give an American film an authentic portrayal of Asian culture was by over-communicating why she wanted certain details included in the story. "What translates in your head may not translate to someone else," Lim says. "You don't get very far by just pushing your point of view." So she made the case for why seemingly tiny details, like having the characters use Chinese slang and play the tile-based game mahjong, helped ground the film culturally.
Lim also made an effort to get to know all the department heads on the more than 200-person crew, something she recommends to anyone working in an unfamiliar professional environment. "Share their enthusiasm for work and what they have done," says Lim. "If there is something you like, make it known." Many of these connections became her allies and support system throughout the project.
Though the movie business is in many ways a guessing game, with studio executives often having to predict what stories will have mainstream appeal, Lim's prefers to trust her own taste, rather than write what she thinks other people will want. "The most important thing is to do you," she says.
Crazy Rich Asians is playing on more than 3,000 screens nationwide and is on track to reach $30 million by the end of the weekend.