Perhaps best known for his work on 2018’s “Crazy Rich Asians,” Jon M. Chu has been working as a director in Hollywood since 2008.
His films span multiple genres, ranging from romantic comedies and dramas to action flicks and, most recently, musicals. Chu’s latest release, a filmed version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning Broadway hit “In the Heights,” is due out this summer.
Next, he’ll take on Stephen Schwartz’s “Wicked.”
“I think we have a lot to say and, therefore, a lot to do,” Chu said during CNBC’s “Race and Opportunity in America” special on Wednesday. “I think the doors are opening now.”
However, the journey to the director’s chair wasn’t an easy one for Chu.
“I would say one of the biggest barriers for me growing up was the fact that people didn’t think Hollywood was a place for an Asian-American director,” Chu said. “There were Asian directors from other places, but an Asian-American director, the voice of that, the who we are and what we have to say, I think, wasn’t quite there yet.”
In the last few years, Asian representation in Hollywood has grown, but there’s still room for improvement.
Chu, for his part, in 2018 helped bring the first Hollywood release to feature a mostly Asian cast to the big screen since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club.”
“Crazy Rich Asians” tallied $238 million globally and was widely embraced by critics and audiences alike.
“Representation is showing the world who you are at, at its most intimate levels,” Chu said. “Showing your languages, not just actual word languages but the love language of food, the love language of insults, of class in terms of what self-worth is, not just the worth of your car.”
“Crazy Rich Asians” focused heavily on how it feels for an Asian-American to go through a cultural identity crisis when traveling to Asia for the first time, Chu said. The realization being that Asian-Americans belong to both worlds.
“I think sharing our culture on the big screen where people have to pay money or subscribe to, saying we’re worth your time and your space to hear our stories is huge,” he said.