‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Writer Exits Sequels over Getting Paid a Fraction of Her Co-Writer’s Salary

     September 5, 2019

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The Crazy Rich Asians sequels have hit a major snag. THR reports that Adele Lim has left the sequels, which will shoot back-to-back, over a pay disparity with her co-writer Peter Chiarelli. Director Jon M. Chu hoped to keep the same creative team for the sequels, but Warner Bros. didn’t want to pay the writers equally for their work. According to THR, the studio wanted to pay $800,000 to $1 million for Chiarelli (a white guy) and $110,000-plus for Lim (an Asian woman). Warner Bros. argues that these are “industry-standard established ranges based on experience and that making an exception would set a troubling precedent in the business,” to which I can only respond, “Bullshit.”

You can maybe get away with that on the first movie where Lim, a veteran TV writer, had never done a feature before. But she and Chiarelli both worked on the screenplay for Crazy Rich Asians, and that film went on to gross $238 million worldwide off a budget of $30 million. That’s her experience, and if someone wants to quibble over it, maybe Warner Bros. could point out that she worked on a massive hit for the studio that spawned two sequels.

Also, and Warner Bros. has to know this, the racial angle here is NOT GREAT. The studio is basically arguing that Chiarelli (who, to his credit, offered to split his salary with Lim, but Lim, rightly, argued that her co-writer shouldn’t have to take a hit because the studio won’t pony up), a white guy, is more important to a franchise called Crazy Rich Asians than a writer who was born and raised in Malaysia.

For the time being, Chu and Chiarelli are now working on the scripts for the sequels, which are based on Kevin Kwan’s books China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems. But this is a poor showing for Warner Bros., which could have simply paid a little more money to Lim and kept their creative team intact, and instead now has to deal with the fallout of underpaying their Asian writer on a movie about Asian characters.

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