“Crazy Rich Asians” co-writer Adele Lim has left the upcoming sequels over an issue of pay disparity.
Much of the team behind last year’s box-office smash is being kept intact to shoot the next two films back-to-back in order to accommodate its stars. The first film also scored much praise from critics for its representation of Asians and Asian-Americans who are far too overlooked in studio features.
The first film was based on the novel by Kevin Kwan and boasted a script by both Peter Chiarelli and Adele Lim. Before they signed on Lim, the only Asian writer on the film, had been working as a writer/producer on numerous TV series for much of the past twenty years from “Reign” to “Life on Mars” to Private Practice” to “Lethal Weapon”.
Chiarelli penned 2009’s rom-com film “The Proposal” and the story for “Now You See Me 2” and produced a few other films like “Eagle Eye” and “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” – that’s it. Both received starting offers for the sequel recently and the disparity is galling. Chiarelli was offered $800,000 to $1 million for his work. Lim? Only a little over $110,000.
Speaking with THR, Lim said: “Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions” adding that women and people of color often are regarded as a garnish – hired to sprinkle culturally specific details on a screenplay rather than being credited with doing substantive work on crafting the story.
Chiarelli offered to split his fee with Lim, but she stood by her principles: “Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer. If I couldn’t get pay equity after CRA, I can’t imagine what it would be like for anyone else, given that the standard for how much you’re worth is having established quotes from previous movies, which women of color would never have been [hired for]. There’s no realistic way to achieve true equity that way.”
Warners reportedly explained to Lim’s reps that the quotes are “industry-standard established ranges based on experience and that making an exception would set a troubling precedent”. All this went down late last year shortly after the film opened, and the production company reportedly then spent five months looking for another writer of Asian descent to take Lim’s place.
They couldn’t find one and ended up coming back to her in February of this year with an offer closer to Chiarelli’s, but Lim turned it down. Lim’s services aren’t being wasted though, she’s writing the script for Walt Disney Animation’s recently announced “Raya and the Last Dragon” and she has a four-year contract with that studio.
Chiarelli, writing with director Jon Chu, delivered the first draft of a ten-page treatment for the first sequel to the studio in late July and the pair are still exploring how much of the source material to adapt.