In July 2019, Marvel Studios launched 6,500 screaming followers to Simu Liu, who simply days earlier had been secretly forged because the lead of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
“He went on stage and began talking Mandarin and had a billion greenback smile,” recalled Shang-Chi screenwriter Dave Callaham of that second at San Diego Comedian-Con. “[Marvel’s] Victoria Alonso got here as much as me afterwards on the after-party. She put her hand on my shoulder. ‘Now that’s an Avenger.’”
Liu was then best-known for starring within the Canadian sitcom Kim’s Comfort. Now he’s headlining Marvel’s first superhero film centering on an Asian lead, with the movie rolling out solely in theaters this weekend the place it’s setting Labor Day information. The trail to get there wasn’t straightforward.
“He went by way of an extended and arduous audition course of, and he utterly nailed each audition,” Marvel casting head Sarah Finn advised THR at Shang-Chi‘s premiere Aug. 16. “He actually earned it.”
Others additionally recalled being impressed by how a lot work Liu put into touchdown the half.
“Plenty of reads, loads of auditions,” mentioned Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige, including of casting a superhero, “There’s no magic system. It’s a sense. It’s a way of each the power to be relatable and grounded and on the similar time take your house in that pantheon of heroes.”
Shang-Chi took years to make it to the large display screen. The character debuted in 1973’s Particular Marvel Version No. 15 and was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, who initially needed to adapt the Kung Fu TV collection for comics, however couldn’t get the rights.
“This character has a historical past of just about attending to the display screen,” mentioned Jim Starlin, who co-created the character with Steve Englehart for 1973’s Particular Marvel Version No. 15. “I wasn’t positive if it ever would.”
Whereas Shang-Chi’s comedian e-book historical past featured Asian tropes and stereotypes that the manufacturing has distanced itself from, the story of a father and son in battle resonated for Marvel Studios.
For awhile, the Shang-Chi film staff was largely a single government in a room at Marvel’s Burbank headquarters. Feige and Marvel producer Jonathan Schwartz each needed to make the film, and Schwartz was charged diving deep into the comics to see what might work.
“We created our doc of what excited us concerning the character and what excited us concerning the film,” mentioned Schwartz. “Issues we needed to hold on to, issues we needed to vary.”
Enter screenwriter Callaham, who within the fall of 2018 rapidly rose to the highest of a pile of hopefuls for the job. A couple of months after Callaham’s hiring, Marvel made it recognized publicly that Shang-Chi was within the works, one thing that doesn’t at all times occur on the script section of improvement.
“They have been making an attempt to flush out Asian administrators, folks to boost their fingers,” recalled Callaham. “They needed it to not be a rumor that they’re going to do an Asian American film. They needed to say, ‘It is a film that’s occurring. We’ve already spent cash on any individual. We’re actually severe.’”
Amongst those that took discover was Liu, who despatched a now-famous 2018 tweet by which he asked, ” OK @Marvel, are we gonna speak or what #ShangChi.” (He just lately advised THR he by no means dreamed something would come of it, and apparently, Feige by no means noticed the tweet till after he was forged.)
Destin Daniel Cretton, then finest recognized for the indie favourite Brief Time period 12, landed the job as director by spring of 2019 and went out for a drink with Callaham, who as a go-to blockbuster scribe won’t really feel like a match for the extra introspective work of Cretton. However the pair hit it off instantly.
“We have been each a bit of nervous about the way it was going to work, nevertheless it turned out nice. We worth the entire similar issues by way of storytelling,” mentioned Callaham. “I traditionally leaned extra in the direction of blowing these issues up, he offers them nurture and care, which is nice.”
All of the sudden, the Shang-Chi staff had gone from one man in a room, to 2 guys in a room, to a few.
“Dave and I beat our heads towards the wall for a very long time. After which Dave, Destin and I beat our heads towards the wall for a very long time,” mentioned Schwartz. “It actually was good to have that infusion of recent director power is at all times a pleasant addition to the combination. I feel we solved loads of issues collectively and acquired the ball down the sector.”
Cretton honed in on the household facet of the story, which sees Liu’s Shang-Chi conflict along with his estranged father Wenwu (Tony Leung) and reunite along with his sister, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang). The filmmaker additionally introduced alongside members of his filmmaking household, together with his Simply Mercy and The Glass Fortress screenwriter Andrew Laham, a transfer that helped make the equipment of a large film really feel extra intimate and manageable for Cretton.
“I begin off scared out of my thoughts, feeling like I’m going to blow it as a result of I’ve by no means completed something like this earlier than,” Cretton recalled of how he feels starting any movie. “This film was the identical. All I can hope for us to be surrounded by a staff that’s wholesome and supportive.”
Akwafina was the primary actor to board the undertaking as Katy, Shaun’s (Liu) finest buddy who goes on a tremendous journey with him. As such, she had a task in studying reverse the hopefuls for the a part of Shang-Chi.
“Simu is grounded and he has coronary heart. That actually comes out within the character,” mentioned Akwafina of what stood out about Liu. “He’s actually passionate.”
Liu spent about 4 months coaching earlier than filming, as government producer Charles Newirth recalled: “He was recreation for the whole lot.”
Then staff spent 13 months in Australia filming, because the continent was ravaged by the wildfires of South Whales and because the manufacturing confronted a COVID-19 shutdown.
“It’s a testomony to the dedication of our crew that we acquired by way of all of it,” mentioned Liu on the premiere, getting a bit of emotional as he marveled at folks within the crowd already cosplaying as Shang-Chi characters.
The premiere befell simply over two years after Liu obtained a name from Feige informing him he’d landed the position of a lifetime.
“I’m feeling actually fired up,” Liu mirrored of the second “I really feel just like the studio has actually thrown their help behind us and I really feel like 1,000,000 bucks.”