Media Race

“Crazy Rich Asians” Writer Adele Lim Leaves Warner Bros. Because of a Pay Disparity with White Male Co-Writer

Adele Lim, an experienced television writer who was celebrated for bringing authenticity to the screen adaptation of Singaporean author Kevin Kwan’s book last year, said in a Hollywood Reporter story Wednesday that she was offered significantly less than white male co-writer Peter Chiarelli to work on the sequel of “Crazy Rich Asians,” the blockbuster hit that was praised for boosting Asian representation in Hollywood.

According to sources who spoke to the Hollywood Reporter, Lim’s starting offer for the sequel was $110,000 — a fraction of the $800,000 to $1 million Chiarelli was offered. Lim said she believes women and people of color are often brought onto big projects like “Crazy Rich Asians” to add cultural details to a screenplay, but not to craft an actual story. “Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” Lim told the Hollywood Reporter.

Jon M. Chu, the director of Crazy Rich Asians, reportedly selected Lim to work on the original film because he wanted a female perspective in the writers’ room since the film has a female protagonist. Now that Lim is leaving, Chu’s plan to keep the cast and production team intact for the upcoming sequels is disrupted.

Lim, a Chinese Malaysian woman, was praised for bringing authenticity to the 2018 film as one of the only screenwriters from Southeast Asia, where Kwan’s books and the film adaptations are set. “When I came on, we basically talked about how I grew up in this culture,” she said. “Important doesn’t begin to describe it when you’re talking about describing a culture and family that the world — that America — hasn’t seen before. You want it to come from an authentic perspective.”

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Chiarelli volunteered to split his portion of the fee with Lim, but she declined the offer. “Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer,” she said. “If I couldn’t get the pay equity after CRA, I can’t imagine what it would be like for anyone else.”

Despite pushing Lim out and causing a setback in film production, Chu is in no rush to get the sequel started. “There’s too much responsibility and too much precedent from the first movie that the last thing I want to do is just hit a date and release the movie,” Chu said. “There’s still too much work to do. Our focus isn’t on the timeline, it’s on getting the story right.”

Source: TWP 9/4/19; HR 9/4/19

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