Adele Lim chimed in eager to hear my response to the previous night’s screening of
Joy Ride‘s review from her home office in early June. Not only is it the writer’s directorial debut, but it’s also a salacious R-rated bro comedy — a genre that rarely sparks the same response in a sparsely populated press room as it does in a theater packed with friends. So she was delighted when she learned of one attendee’s contagious laughter. “You just need a deranged bitch,” she said, “and then everyone’s like, ‘Green light for the party!’
Lin, once a skilled The TV scribe who later moved into film made her a sought-after voice and even an accidental provocateur. In her new film, a cast of four Asian-Americans (three of them women and one non-binary) film, the Malaysian-born mother of two co-wrote Disney’s
Raya and the Last Dragon ) and co-authored $ million box office Crazy Rich Asians – then famously turned down the latter’s yet-to-be-produced sequel , which was her decision to reportedly be paid a tenth of what her white male co-authors were paid.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Lin spoke of Full frontal nudity, the tightrope walk to promote a movie during a strike, and what she learned from making public low offers.
Love crude comedy. That’s my happy place. I’m in
Raya, dream come true, but it’s been two years of writing for family, four quadrants, the whole thing. My friends and co-authors Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao, we’ve been together Hanging around, it’s just some dick jokes. On Eid , all I want is a palate cleanser. So, for shit and giggles, we get together every Thursday Discuss together what we want in our 667. What will make us Laughing?
Asian women rarely act this way. Was there a litmus test when growing up , you’d think, “I want my version”?
Any underrepresented group, you’d end up with some to be portrayed in certain ways. It’s not something I necessarily did early in my career, but as an Asian woman in this field, I’m very aware of how I’m perceived. Asian women on screen, they think you’re exotic .. we’re like the first section on Pornhub. It’s a really nasty thing. But the reaction from the community is, “well, let’s completely deny our sexuality” – which is rubbish because that’s ours part. When you do this, you are giving in to the terrorists.
In terms of portrayal, did the producers ever tell you, “I look at you and think, ‘Dragon Girl and Nail Salon Who could be a human trafficker? “
This is verbatim, me and a The producers of the project are in a room. I was like, “Really, did you find a way to cram all these stereotypes into one sentence? That’s pretty impressive, man.”
Did you tell him?
What? No! This was years ago, before
Crazy Rich Men . When I asked this question, if you turned people off, you’d be fired in no time. Your career will be stillborn. You are always torn between standing up for what you believe in and surviving.
Can you tell me about some dialogue or basketball that moved you in a comedy that showed women naked frontally?
You can’t really do that now, but I remember googling “genital tattoos and tattooers” in the writers room once “. Note: You cannot unsee these images. When we covered the story, the character of Kat [
Stephanie Hsu] was inspired by a friend of ours – now the most prim, tight A woman with pearls, but a total freak in college. It made us laugh out loud, so we gave the character one and kept expecting someone to tell us, “Fuck, no!” But when you’re working with Seth Rogen’s company, their reaction is, “Fuck, yeah !”
For the past decade, nude comedies have featured unexpected penis exposures.
This is a nice twist. We’ve seen so many dicks! I don’t know how you got past Ken Jeong in
Has your mother seen this movie?
She thinks it’s funny, which is a big concession, by the way. She is a born again Christian and a prayer group leader. I say she probably can’t take her church friends with her like she did with
Crazy Rich Man , but she really wants to see this movie. I didn’t want to be in the room with her – but, at the moment the tattoo was revealed, I happened to be walking by. It was as if God’s power had forced her to lean back on the casters of her chair, and she let out a high-pitched voice I’d never heard in my life. But she loves it.
budget request Lin filming joy trip China road in Vancouver travel. by Ed Arakle / Courtesy of Lionsgate
Did you really get your first writing job from a job ad at THR?
Yes, because I’m old! I’ll hang out at Barnes & Noble in Encino – I can’t afford
The Hollywood Reporter – so I just look at the commercials. I don’t have any connections, and I’m pretty bad at socializing, but there’s an ad for a writer’s assistant. They didn’t reveal what show it was because it was Xena: Warrior Princess – which has a huge cult following. If they were to advertise, they would be swarmed by fans.
You have previously acknowledged that women and people of color often have a one-off in Hollywood. Knowing that, what made you want to try directing?
If you think about stress. I’m glad I was able to live through all the failure and dysfunction in the lower-stakes world of TV. There’s always a producer who disappoints. There’s always one bar you won’t go to. But again, the stakes are high. This is the first time we’ve included four Asian faces in an R-rated comedy. If you screw up — if a project with a queer or black or Asian lead fails — the instinctive reaction of the entire industry is to blame it on someone else. You don’t want this fear to paralyze you and prevent you from being creative from your happy place.
Crazy Rich Asians , the stakes are special high. What did you learn from deciding to leave and then publicly keeping a low profile?
Zero regrets, but I’m happy to be on the other side. I was horrified by the exposure of that story. You never want to be a difficult person, especially if you’re a woman. People are always worried that they will never be able to work again. But these are the lies we’ve been taught: “If you try hard enough, you’ll get there! If you don’t, it’s because you don’t have it.” Not talking about that is the problem. No one wants to be an advocate for pay equity, but I’m glad it’s here. I got a lot of good feedback and realized it wasn’t just my idea.
“Crazy Rich Asians” (Right) Shot in Malaysia. Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Entertainment
Do you have any thoughts on how long the sequel has been stalled?
Honestly, I wouldn’t be where I am today without [director] Jon Chu and that movie. I enrolled myself in
Joy Ride home directing school, and Jon Chu was instrumental in that. I love that movie. I love what it does for Asian Americans. I want a sequel. Whether I’m writing it or steering it, I want it to do well.
How did your income change after that movie?
I went from writing cis white characters and sometimes female characters my entire career to a million and one needs Everything for every Asian. It’s fantastic, but there are so many voices I can compose and write for. I am now the go-to Asian for Asian things.
Hollywood often dips into the same pool of acting talent. Is this a reluctance to take risks on unproven talent?
This is something that is often talked about in our circle. Movies are a risky business, and studios are not willing to take risks. They feel they have to go to these big names. Personally, I wish we had it all. I’m obsessed with Michelle Yeoh. I want her, Simu Liu and Awkwafina to get all the projects in the world. At the same time, I hope the project has the opportunity to find new talent. When you’re an Asian actor, it’s hard to find material that brings out your strengths and makes you shine.
What are your thoughts on the proposed DGA agreement?
I think it has achieved very important results, which is the base level for other guilds to continue to develop.
Are you surprised that there is such an issue as AI in the WGA impasse?
I was previously a member of the WGA Negotiating Committee. You come to the negotiating table thinking, “Oh, we’re going to talk about how much we can gain!” No, we’re going to talk about not rolling back what we already have – even the concessions that writers have to be human need to do lots of work. This affects writers more than anyone. We must address this now for the future. Once you take away rights, it’s very difficult to take them back.
So, how will you be involved in the strike to release this film? Will you be at the premiere? For me, in this movie, I’m also a director, a producer, and an Asian American woman who has done so much for my community. For this movie, yes, I will go to the premiere.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in the June issue of The 06 The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. 2205Click here to subscribe.