“Crazy Rich Asians” director John M. Chu believes that it is necessary to have a second feature film about the Thai cave rescue because he doesn’t believe mainstream Hollywood will get it right. The news story is regarded as one of the hottest properties in Hollywood right now, and studios are looking to strike while the iron is hot. What Chu refers to as “mainstream Hollywood” might make a good film, even an excellent one, his fear is that the story will be whitewashed, and he is not about to risk the potential of letting that kind of version be the only film out there to tell this story.
Whitewashing in films is the practice of casting white actors in roles that were created for or depict real-life people of color. There is a long history of this in Hollywood, as IndieWire recently reported on, including Johnny Depp as Tonto, Angelina Jolie as Fox in Wanted, Ben Affleck in Argo, and Scarlett Johansson in Ghost In The Shell. This is what Chu is worried about. He doesn’t want to see the people in the film misrepresented, as he feels it is not only inauthentic, but it doesn’t do these real-life people justice.
Fortunately for Chu, there are people who agree with him. John Penotti of Ivanhoe Pictures has decided to attach Chu to their film about the incident as the director. And with that agreement, it is understood there will be no whitewashing. The movie will focus on the twelve players and their coach, as well as the Thai Navy Seals, private companies, and Thai government, who all rallied around the trapped team for 18 days until the rescue was completed according to a piece about the project featured on Deadline.
There has already been some blowback about the Chu/Ivanhoe union for this film from fans that feel like they are jumping the gun in assuming that the version of this story that PureFlix is producing will be whitewashed. While there are no indications that it will be, film critics point out that whitewashing has been the norm in stories like this for Hollywood, because production companies claim it allows them to cast actors with more recognizable names which equates to more dollars at the box office.
Chu has been receiving support for the project on Twitter, where his fans have been encouraging him to get the film done and do it right. To this point, PureFlix has had no comment, positive or negative regarding what Chu has said and his plans for a competing film. In the meantime, Chu’s film “Crazy Rich Asians” will be opening in theaters on August 15.