One of the biggest surprises of 2018, both critically and at the box office, was Jon M. Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asians.” One of the only major studio films to ever feature a predominantly Asian cast, ‘CRA’ became a global sensation that ended up earning over $238 million worldwide. And with that type of money, you’d expect that Warner Bros. would be more than willing to hand out some raises for the upcoming sequel. Well, according to THR, one of the offers wasn’t good enough for ‘CRA’ co-writer Adele Lim, who walked away from the sequel after being upset over her salary offer.
The report says that Lim was made aware that she would be making significantly less money than her white male co-writer, Peter Chiarelli. And without equal pay, she told WB that she wasn’t interested in working on ‘Crazy Rich Asians 2.’
According to the report, the two writers were offered substantially different salaries, with Chiarelli set to receive between $800,000 and $1 million for his work, while Lim would be given $110,000-plus. Lim’s reps were told by the studio that the disparity between salaries came down purely to experience, which is the protocol in Hollywood. The co-writer and her reps apparently took the grievance all the way to WB boss Toby Emmerich, who ended up siding with the studio’s employees versus Lim.
The experience difference between Chiarelli and Lim isn’t as extreme as you might assume based on those numbers. Chiarelli is best known as the writer of “The Proposal” and before ‘CRA,’ his only other non-’Proposal’ writing credit was for the story for “Now You See Me 2.” Prior to “The Proposal,” Chiarelli was primarily seen as a producer. Lim, on the other hand, doesn’t have the feature film experience but has been a TV writer for almost two decades, with series like “Private Practice,” “One Tree Hill,” “Life on Mars,” and “Lethal Weapon” under her belt. If you base it on years of experience as a screenwriter, as well as the number of writing projects, Lim has Chiarelli beat. But apparently, that’s not how WB saw things.
“Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” said Lim. She likened the role that many People of Color writers receive when they’re hired onto a project as “soy sauce,” which means they’re just around to add some culturally-specific details to the script.
After the co-writer walked away, it is reported that WB struggled to find an Asian writer to replace her. Ultimately, the studio went back to Lim, who was then offered something closer to “parity” but still not to her liking.
“Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer,” she explained. “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 movies, which women of color would never have been [hired for]. There’s no realistic way to achieve true equity that way.”
As of now, THR says that ‘Crazy Rich Asians 2’ is still in the early stages of development with director Chu working with Chiarelli on the beginnings of the story and script. No release date for the sequel has been announced.