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'Crazy Rich Asians' director supports female screenwriter in pay dispute

Chuck Barney, The Mercury News on

Published in Entertainment News

"Crazy Rich Asians" director Jon M. Chu has expressed his support for Adele Lim, the screenwriter who co-authored the blockbuster film and then departed its sequel after a pay parity dispute.

In a lengthy statement posted to Twitter, Chu, a Palo Alto native, wrote, "For those of you who are asking, you bet your a -- I stand with Adele! I believed in her before we ever shot the movie and believe in her beyond. As many of you can imagine, negotiations are tough and more often than not messy -- no matter who you are in this industry."

The Hollywood Reporter broke the story last week that Lim had exited the sequel project due to a pay gap between herself and co-writer Peter Chiarelli. Although Lim declined to reveal any numbers, sources told THR that Chiarelli was initially offered $800,000 to $1 million and Lim $110,000-plus. The studio told Lim's representatives that the figures were based on industry standards and each writer's past experience.

Studio chairman Toby Emmerich supported the position of his business department in negotiations, according to THR.

In his Twitter statement, Chu went on to say, "The studio always comes in at a low offer and the talent always comes in at a high one then everyone enters the process knowing there'll be lots of back and forth to find where we meet. But because I am close with Adele, when I discovered she was unhappy with the initial offer, the producers, myself and studio executives leapt into action to ensure we got to a place of parity between the two writers at a significant number."

The director claims that after he and Warner Bros. execs came up with several different solutions -- including Chiarelli's offer to share some of his fee, "a lot of time had passed" and Lim declined to participate.

"These things happen in negotiations, and I'm proud that she was able to stand up for her own measure of worth and walk away when she felt like she was being undervalued," Chu said.

Released in the summer of 2018, Chu's film was a watershed moment for Asian-Americans in Hollywood. The first mainstream studio film since 1993's "Joy Luck Club" to feature a nearly all-Asian cast, it went on to net $174.5 million domestically and $238.5 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing studio romantic comedy in nine years.

Despite the breakup, Chu said he looked forward to working with Lim "in the future and (I) respect the hell out of her."

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"I agree with Adele that parity for women and people of color is crucial to the continued enlightenment of our industry and we still have a long way to go," Chu wrote. "What I discovered personally through this process is there are still things to debate amongst ourselves (like value of experience vs lack of opportunity, TV vs film writing, work experiences vs life experience, creative contribution valuations etc) which I am sure won't be simple answers but I know we must try to figure it out to keep the needle moving."

Chu also noted that Chiarelli shouldn't be depicted as the bad guy in the pay-dispute saga.

"He is a good man, a creative force and has been a pro in the business for many many years, doing many uncredited re-writes (as those in the industry know go to only the most trusted writers)," he said.

Lim spoke to THR about the pay discrepancy in an interview last week, saying, "Being evaluated that way can't help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions."

"Peter has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn't be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer," Lim said. "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 films, which women of color would never have been (hired for)."

(c)2019 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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