The movie adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel Crazy Rich Asians is weeks away from hitting theaters across North America. It’s only the second-ever Hollywood film to feature an entirely Asian-American cast, following the 1993 Disney movie The Joy Luck Club.
It’s been 25 years since Joy Luck Club, so the stakes for the adaptation were already high. A successful all-Westernized Asian film could open doors for countless future projects, and for Kwan, it could only have the huge impact he wanted by being released in theaters.
That’s why, as revealed in a new interview from The Hollywood Reporter, Kwan and his director Jon M. Chu decided to turn down a massive Netflix offer. The streaming company came through “dangling complete artistic freedom, a greenlighted trilogy, and huge, seven-figure-minimum paydays for each stakeholder, upfront,” per THR. Instead, Kwan and Chu opted for a lesser deal with Warner Bros. to ensure that their film would hit the big screen.
“I could sense every lawyer on the call shaking their heads: 'Ugh, these stupid idealists.' Here, we have a chance for this gigantic payday instantaneously," Kwan told THR. "But Jon and I both felt this sense of purpose. We needed this to be an old-fashioned cinematic experience, not for fans to sit in front of a TV and just press a button."
The offer was so large that the author "could have moved to an island and never worked another day," but he still said no.
For all that Netflix offered, it couldn’t guarantee visibility, something desperately needed in Hollywood. "You can look at Get Out, you can look at Black Panther—it changes the whole economics of the business when movies like that succeed," one of the film’s producers, Nina Jacobson said. "It meant something to us to become a 'comp' for somebody else."
Crazy Rich Asians hits theaters on August 15. It stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, Ken Jeong, and more. Watch a trailer for the film above.