Analysis: Is Hollywood getting a Chinese makeover?



Over the last few years, Hollywood has experienced a rise in Chinese inclusion.

In its quest for global success Hollywood sees the growing markets of Asia as its next frontier. To attract the billion-plus eyes in places like China and India studios are creating content that reflects the diversity of the world.


Tuesday’s announcement that Chinese stars Gong Li and Jet Li are joining Disney’s live-action version of “Mulan” is the latest example of China’s new leading role in Tinseltown.

Jet Li is in final talks to play the emperor of China, who orders the mobilization of troops. Gong Li will portray the villain as a powerful witch.

Actors Gong Li (left) and Jet Li (right) have joined the cast of the upcoming Disney live-action film, "Mulan." /Reuters

They will be joining Chinese star Liu Yifei who’s playing the lead character Mulan, alongside international action star Donnie Yen as Mulan’s mentor, Commander Tung.

Filming will begin shooting in August in China and New Zealand.

The film is a remake of Disney’s 1998 animated film in which Fa Mulan (inspired by the real-life Hua Mulan story), daughter of aging warrior Fa Zhou, impersonates a man to take her father’s place during a general conscription in the Han Dynasty.

Crazy Rich Asians

The buzz has already started all around the world for Hollywood's all-Asian cast of the upcoming romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” based on the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Kwan’s novel is “about a Chinese-American woman’s journey back to Asia, a quintessentially Asian immigrant experience.

She goes through reverse culture shock as part of her journey."

Constance Wu is starring in the upcoming romantic comedy film based on the book, "Crazy Rich Asians." /AFP

“Crazy Rich Asians” stars actors Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh, and Nick Golding.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Kwan shared a strange experience he had in the early days of getting his novel made into a movie. The author said during an early meeting with a potential producer who asked him to reimagine his lead character, Rachel (Wu), as white.

“To remove that aspect of the character by making her a white woman would have made it a completely different story,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “They wanted to change the heroine into a white girl. I was like, ‘Well, you’ve missed the point completely.’ I said, ‘No, thank you.”

But Kwan said eventually Hollywood got it right.

“I do think the tide is turning, and my personal experience as far as I’m concerned has always been a very positive one, from the very beginning,” he said.

“I had one of the top producers in Hollywood come to me wanting to make this movie and wanting to do it right, so I think the culture is shifting. They’re seeing the importance of this.”

"Crazy Rich Asians" hits theaters in August.

Fast & Furious' Justin Lin (right) is one of the creators of Bruce Lee-inspired Tong Wars Drama ‘Warrior.’ /Reuters


Cable is also shining the spotlight on a Chinese story. The Cinemax drama “Warrior” inspired by the writings and work of martial arts icon Bruce Lee tells the story of a young martial arts prodigy, newly arrived from, China who finds himself caught up in the bloody Chinatown Tong wars.

"Warrior" is currently in production in South Africa with a star-studded international cast under the helm of "Fast & Furious" franchise director Justin Lin.

The cable series is set to premiere in 2018 or early 2019.

A still from the episode "Ride the Tiger" of "Fresh Off the Boat". /courtesy of ABC

Fresh Off the Boat

Hollywood’s most groundbreaking moment came on the small screen when "Fresh Off the Boat" premiered. The sitcom about a Chinese family debuted on ABC in 2015 and was the first to feature an Asian family in US primetime in 20 years. It was a network success which has opened the door for more Asia influence on mainstream television in the US.

"Fresh Off the Boat" made a bold decision to do an episode in Mandarin. About

50 percent of this year’s Chinese New Year-themed episode was spoken in it.

When we spoke to the writer of the episode, Jeff Chiang, he explained why it was significant.

“The fact is that this is a Chinese family people connect with and want to see them each week,” he told CGTN Digital. “You don’t have to be from the same background to relate.”