Who i’d cast in CRAZY RICH ASIANS: the movie

**This post was originally written August, 2013. The majority of the cast has been announced but not all roles have been made official for the actors. In this blogpost I predict the roles they will fill.

There was one thought going through my mind as I turned the last few pages of the book Crazy Rich Asians:

“This has got to be made into a movie.”


That being said, I was not surprised to hear that the production company behind the Hunger Games acquired the film rights and it is in fact going to be adapted for the silver screen.  I can’t remember the last time I was this excited about a fictional book, let alone a book coming to life since Gossip Girl first became popular in middle school.  Needless to say, I’m THRILLED- all I see is incredible opportunity. (whatever happened to the Asian adaptation of Gossip Girl anyway?)

 Asians are slowly becoming more and more prevalent in business, tech, you-name-it industry, most notably Fashion; it is only a matter of time that they become more popular in mainstream film. There is huge Asian talent pool that has yet to be fully explored and if done correctly, the film adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians has the potential to seize this opportunity, redefining what it means to an Asian movie/entertainer and possibly even catalyze the creation and popularization of many more movies to follow.  It might just be the next cultural phenomenon.

I have always dreamed of being involved with a movie. Since I was mentally casting each role while I was reading anyway, I thought I’d share my vision for the cast here. It’s clear that the author, Kevin Kwan, thoughtfully crafted each character so I put in just as much thought in casting given the various idiosyncrasies involved with each role. As much as I love actors like Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi, Russell Wong, Lucy Liu, Kelly Hu (the list goes on) there is an incredible and unique opportunity to break ground with a new generation of actors.

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As a reader, Asian American and millennial, my ideal cast includes a good mix of seasoned actors with a few newer faces. For the movie to be convincing, impactful and well-received by both the Eastern and Western audience, an undeniably talented cast must be masterfully weaved together so that there is a harmonious marriage of the East and West, traditional with modern.

Let’s suspend belief here and imagine that there was an unlimited budget and I had my pick.

Here’s who I’d cast:

(All of the following actors speak English (fluently) as far as i know unless otherwise mentioned.)

Although there are already rumors that Vancouver-born actor Nicholas Tse has the lead to be the story’s main character,  I had someone else in mind:

Dennis Oh.

 I fell in love with Dennis Oh ever since I saw him in a Korean Drama a few years back. Ever since, I’ve been waiting for the day that he could shine in an English speaking role.  He would be a great choice for the terribly good looking Nicholas Young- the wealthy but unassuming history professor who is impressive, charming and HOT (read: well dressed and curiously exotic).

Yes, he is half Korean but what better way to marry the East and West than with an actor that is internationally attractive? He has the look that would undoubtedly appeal to both Eastern and Western audiences.  (He clearly has the heart-throb factor down).  His voice, his face, his smile and his charm is everything that I imagined for Nicholas Young. The only issue I foresee is him having to speak Chinese otherwise, i can see him pull off Nick’s Britishy phrases in a seductive accent.



Can’t you just imagine him at Tea and Sympathy as described in the beginning pages of the novel?

I mean, I can already picture this being Nick and Rachel. (It’s actually a screenshot from a drama he was in).


picture this as the moment in the book where Nick says “This place is very real. You’re the dream”. Am I right?

I’m already convinced…

As for Rachel Chu, I vote Karena Lam.

Not only does she speak perfect English (she was born in Vancouver), she exudes effortless charm just like her American Born Chinese character, Rachel Chu. Karena fits the role of the Californian economics professor who handles the scrutiny of the Young family with grace.  After watching this video, I was convinced. She’s exactly how i imagined Rachel to be. Not to mention she has received numerous Hong Kong film awards throughout her career.  She is worthy of being Nick’s dream girl.  In fact, I think the two actors make a dreamy on-screen couple.


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Jingchu Zhang as Peik Lin Goh.

Although in the book she is described as “not a natural born raving beauty, with a broad nose, round face and slightly squinty eyes,” I think Jingchu Zhang has the energy , humor and quirk to embody the role of Singaporean best friend and sidekick Peik Lin.  Having attended Stanford together, she is not only Rachel’s fairy godmother but also Rachel’s one stop source to the landscape of Singapore.



For the soon to be wed Colin Khoo, 3 actors came to mind.

Wang Lee Hom would make an incredible Colin Khoo. Not only does he accurately fit the description of “roguishly handsome with an unruly shock of hair that [makes] him look like a Polynesian surfer,” he has a certain depth and coolness that would allow him to give a convincing performance as the charismatic but troubled Groom-to-be.


After seeing this photo, Lee Home is definitely the front runner for this role.


Mark Chao is a close second to play the role of Colin Khoo.

 After watching him in Ai (2012), I can see how his  performance as the lonely and entitled playboy would translate well to the role of Colin, where he would have to play the always put-together but actually anxiety ridden heir.


I guess you could also consider Godfrey Gao as a suitable alternative but Godfrey seems almost too confident to play the troubled Colin. He might be a better fit for a character with more of a badass/troublemaker vibe.


Grace Huang as Araminta Lee.

Colin and Araminta are described as an unusually exotic couple- both funny and down to earth. Grace Huang can pull off the tan willowy girl who looks very pretty even without a stitch of makeup and I think she would make a stunning bride-to-be.


Initially, Angelababy came to mind from the role of Astrid Leong,

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 but after watching a few interviews I came to the choice of Li Bing Bing.

She is the epitome of effortless chic and makes even the most simple outfits beautiful (both pre-requisites for the role of Astrid). Astrid Leong is described to be “a girl who only exists to feed obsession”, “one of the few from her generation that get it right” and an “inexplicable alluring vision.” Only a goddess like Li Bing Bing could truly bring a character like Astrid Leong to life. This would also be a nice change from her roles in Resident Evil 6 and (upcoming) Transformers 4. If she can perfect her English, Li Bing Bing is the ideal woman to play a character who is both stylish, making annual spring trips to Paris for couture fittings, and wise enough to play Nick’s advisor/cousin.




A close second would be Yiu Li Fei- She lived in New York for four years before moving back to China.  She would make a lovely Astrid and wife of Michael for the above reasons and if not, could also pass as Araminta.


Ni Ni would also be a great option considering her most recent role in an international feature film directed by Zhang Yimou (“House of Flying Daggers”) with Christian Bale. She is also an emerging star on the fashion front.


Daniel Wu as Michael Teo.

After watching his performance in Don’t Go Breaking My Heart I’m convinced he’d be the perfect person to play the “fiercely handsome Armed forces elite commando and a Caltech trained computer systems specialist” burdened by the weight his wife Astrid’s family fortune and status.


One thing is for sure: the actors who play Astrid and Michael will surely make an exceedingly striking pair.-“a couple good looking enough to be gazed at with a mixture of envy and derision.”

Eddie Peng as Allistair Cheng.

I loved Eddie Peng in Love you you and Ai and would love to see him again as “the pampered ne’er do well who had barely scraped through Sydney University and is now doing something or other in the HK film industry.” He never fails to bring a certain lighthearted quality to whatever role he plays and always manages to get the audience to empathize with him, which will be quite useful for his role as Allistair.

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Mandy and Francesca, two girls who are desperate for Nicholas Young’s attention and willing to do whatever it takes to get in between Nicholas and Rachel.

 Jamie Chung as Mandy


Stephanie Jacobsen as Francesca. She’s so sexy it’s almost dangerous- a perfect quality for an ex of Nick’s.


Rex Lee would make a great Oliver T’sien, with the valuable and often humorous commentary he offers Rachel as a sort of orientation to the landscape of Asia and HNWI’s . If not as Oliver, Rex could also be a great Stephen Chia, Astrid’s trusted jeweler.


Reggie Lee as Eddie Cheng.

Reggie Lee brings a certain darkness and angst that would be perfect for the role of Eddie Cheng, father of 3 who “breezed through Cambridge judge business school with distinction, and [is] now a rising star in Hong Kong private banking world” yet still feels like he has something to prove.


Charlene Choi as his wife Fiona Tung.

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I would also LOVE to see Ryan Wang and Ray Zhang as Eddie’s Kids: Constantine or Augustine or Kalliste Cheng (whoever has more screen time).

Ryan Wang has a special place in my heart after his appearance on Ellen. and it just so turns out he has a good friend Ray. Maybe they can perform a bit in the movie? “The Bach partita and then the Mendelssohn,” to be exact.


Michelle Yeoh as Shang Su Yi -Nick’s grandmother.

I know it’s almost blasphemous to be saying this considering how Michelle Yeoh is stunning and ageless, but I think she would give an incredible performance as the revered Shang Su Yi, Nick’s beloved grandmother. Michelle Yeoh has a commanding presence characteristic of any woman with an influence, not to mention she is the heiress to the family fortune and has lived a life more extravagant than many of us can dream of. Michelle Yeoh also happens to be from Malaysia and being multi-lingual would help with the delivery of the mixed dialect phrases.


Karen Mok as Kerry Chu, Rachel’s mom.


or Rosalind Chao could also be a close second.


Both mirror Rachel Chu’s Californian energy and charm and could pass as the Mom/best friend.

Ming Na Wen as Eleanor Young. 

 Ming Na Wen not only has the graceful and elegant looks of a lady of leisure but also the cunning face of a woman capable of being the manipulative and scornful mother. This lady would be perfect as Nick’s mom and would also bring a unique flavor and audience to the role.


And just a few others that came to mind:

Kenneth Tsang as Phillip Young, Nick’s father. A laidback goodhumored man to balance out the intensity of his wife Eleanor.


Doze Niu as Peik Lin’s father– I’m not completely sure if he speaks English fluently but apparently he speaks Hokkien, and I think he would bring the character of Peik Lin’s father to the life.  He’s not stocky and barrel chested as described in the novel but he definitely has the quirk.


Harry Shum as Charlie Wu, the man from Astrid’s younger years.  Poor Charlie, Astrid broke his heart.


Nikki Soohoo, Brenda Song and Ellen Wong to play any of the girls who geek out at any Nicholas Young sighting.


Rick Yune as Bernard (from Colin’s bachelor party)


 There is of course always the option of discovering someone completely new, similar to how Tang Wei was discovered for Lust, Caution or how Emma Watson was casted for the Harry Potter series.

With strategic and flawless execution, CRAZY RICH ASIANS just might produce a killer film and an equally amazing soundtrack with buzz/hype comparable to that of the most recent release of The Great Gatsby. Combine that with the lure of Gossip Girl and put it on a global scale.

Even if my picks don’t end up in the final cast, I think I selected quite a good looking bunch- faces that would fit in nicely even in the glossy pages of Hong Kong or Singapore Tatler. I’m hoping there will be a strong natural chemistry with whatever cast the filmmakers choose so that the book is successfully brought to life. Hopefully this film adaptaion won’t disappoint like many others often do.

I even went and started to brainstorm a possible soundtrack.  I can’t imagine what the music and fashion will be like for a movie like this, but that’s the topic for a future blog post. 😉 Edit: Just did a post about what songs I’d use for the soundtrack! Click here to read and listen

So how did I do? Thoughts?

Thanks for the inspiration for the post  Ax3 Battery!

Can’t wait till the movie comes out!

You can buy the book here


“Every casting director I’ve met is a woman.” – Cameron Diaz

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