Malaysians have been buzzing about Crazy Rich Asians since it was revealed that the movie adaptation features more than a little local flavour.
We already knew Malaysian actress Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh had snagged a key role in the film. Earlier this week, it was announced that Henry Golding, who is of Iban and English parentage, will play the male lead opposite Fresh Off The Boat star Constance Wu.
The film, which is going to be directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up Revolution, Never Say Never 2), is currently in development.
But Crazy Rich Asians was originally the brainchild of author Kevin Kwan, who wrote the 2013 runaway bestseller (followed by China Rich Girlfriend in 2015 and the upcoming Rich People Problems).
The novel tells the story of Rachel Chu (who will be played by Wu), a Chinese economics professor in the United States, who travels to Singapore with her husband Nicholas (Golding) to attend a wedding. There, she discovers that Nicholas’ family is fabulously rich, and soon gets overwhelmed by their extraordinary lifestyle. Yeoh will be playing Nicholas’ mother, Eleanor.
As we wait in anticipation for the movie, Star2 takes a look back at the book that started it all. Here are eight things you may not have known about Crazy Rich Asians.
1. Kwan is no stranger to the lives of the rich and the famous: his great-grandfather was one of the founders of Singapore’s oldest bank, the Oversea Chinese Banking Corporation. He is also related to Nancy Kwan, famed Chinese-American movie star of the 1960s who starred in The World Of Suzie Wong and Flower Drum Song.
2. Kwan was born in Singapore, but moved to the US when he was 11. As a child in Singapore, he remembers visiting a family friend’s house, “an enormous estate that had a sunken pond in the middle of the living room filled with baby sharks”, he told the South China Morning Post. This image made such an impression on him that it inspired the character Goh Pei Lin’s house in Crazy Rich Asians.
3. Over 20 years ago, Kwan wrote a poem called Singapore Bible Study, which was the genesis of Chapter Two of Crazy Rich Asians. (If your memory is hazy, that’s where Eleanor Young and her Bible study friends are introduced!)
4. It was always Kwan’s intention to write a trilogy: the entire story arc was in his mind before he even started the first book. His idea was to take readers to different parts of Asia with each book, and showcase the different forms of wealth there.
“Singaporean wealth is very different from Hong Kongese wealth, which is very different from Taiwanese wealth, which is even more different from Chinese wealth,” he said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
5. One factor that inspired Kwan to write his novel was a void in the Western book market.
“The only works of fiction about Asians were about historical Asia, like Shanghai set in the 1930s or 1940s, The Joy Luck Club, or Asian American identity by people like Maxine Hong Kingston. No one was really writing about contemporary Asia and what was happening in Asia in 2009,” said Kwan in an interview with NextShark.
6. After Kwan sent in his manuscript, his editor had trouble believing the extravagant things his characters would do, and kept asking him to cut things for believability. Kwan had to send her newspaper articles of such antics to prove he wasn’t making things up.
7. Kwan may write a lot on family fortunes, but he’s also knowledgeable about luck. He was the co-writer of Luck: The Essential Guide, a light-hearted guide on luck-based superstitions which also gives tips on improving your fortune. Wonder if he used any to make Crazy Rich Asians such a sensation!
8. According to the South China Morning Post, Crazy Rich Asians has been translated into 12 languages so far. Oddly, Chinese is not one of them.