Simu Liu Auditioned Four Times For Crazy Rich Asians — Including The Role Which Pierre Png Ended Up Playing — And Was Rejected Because He Didn’t Have The X-Factor
For a while, the Shang-Chi star "was trying to figure out whether I could be the lead character or whether I could only be a supporting character for my entire career.”
For an actor, what could be worse than being rejected for a role? Well, being told that you lack the ‘It’ Factor.
That happened to Simu Liu when he failed to land a part in Jon M Chu’s 2018 rom-com Crazy Rich Asians.
Speaking on the May 18 episode of the How To Fail with Elizabeth Day podcast, Liu, 33, shared that he auditioned “four times” for the movie, including the parts of Colin, the BBF of Henry Golding’s character, Nick Young, and Michael, the husband of Nick’s cousin Astrid, played by Gemma Chan.
Those roles eventually went to Chris Pang and Pierre Png, respectively, and the Chinese-Canadian actor said, “I just remember being devastated at that time I was putting so much on the line. Coming out to LA, and I think I expected things to happen faster than they actually did.”
What hurt him though wasn’t so much the rejection but the reason behind it. Curious to know why he impressed the powers that be (despite receiving “really positive feedback” from them), he asked his agent to find out why.
“Through some sort of broken telephone, whether it had gone through a studio exec or a casting director before it got to our side, we got, ‘Well, Simu doesn't have the X-factor. The ‘It’ Factor,’” the Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star recalled. “And that was just such a crushing blow for me.
“Again, I felt that I had already worked so hard and I have come so far and I have trained as an actor and I have taken countless hours of class… what is the ‘It’ Factor? It felt like someone was telling me that I just wasn’t good enough. That I just wasn't likable. I didn't have that thing that made people want to watch it. It was at a time that was very difficult for me, I was trying to figure out whether I could be the lead character or whether I could only be a supporting character for my entire career.”
Liu said he didn’t bear any grudges against Crazy Rich Asians and was “truly happy” about its success. He added that he is now pals with Chu who “is very adamant that he's never [given that feedback].”
(This story brings to mind another Crazy Rich Asians casting controversy involving Brenda Song. In a 2019 interview with Teen Vogue, the Disney star of The Sweet Life of Zack and Cody claimed “she never got to read” for the movie because she was considered “not Asian enough”. Chu denied those claims via Twitter: “Would these words ever come out of my mouth? Nope makes no sense. I feel terrible she thinks this is the reason. The fact is I love Brenda Song and am a fan. I didn’t need her t audition because I already knew who she was!”)
Still, whoever said it, Liu was “grateful” for that piece of advice. "It forced me to take a step back and realise that maybe I wanted it too badly," he explained. "Like maybe I was too desperate and that desperation was showing in my work. There had to be an element of confidence in what I was doing and self-assuredness. I had to trust I was talented and I was watchable and I was good. It changed the way I approached my work after that piece of feedback that Jon actually never gave.”
During the podcast, Liu also spoke about his former career as an accountant; his memoir We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story, which out in stores next Thursday (May 26); and his latest project, Barbie, currently filming in the UK. Listen to the podcast here.Chu is working on the film adaptation of the Broadway smash Wicked, with Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo as leads.
Photo: TPG News/Click Photos