'Crazy Rich Asians' Sequel Having Crazy Rich Problems, Writer Adele Lim Leaves Over Pay Disparity

Crazy Rich Asians, last summer's box office hit that marked a significant touchstone for Asian and Asian-American representation in Hollywood, is currently slated to have two sequels. But the first of those follow-ups will be moving forward without co-writer Adele Lim, who walked away from the sequel after realizing there was a huge pay disparity between Warner Bros.' starting offers to her and co-writer Peter Chiarelli: WB offered Chiarelli $800,000 to $1 million, but only $110,000-plus for Lim.

Lim – who, it should be noted, was the first movie's only Asian writer – told The Hollywood Reporter that she is not returning for the sequel.

"Being evaluated that way can't help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions," says Lim, who believes that women and people of color often are regarded as "soy sauce" — hired to sprinkle culturally specific details on a screenplay, rather than credited with the substantive work of crafting the story.

Before Crazy Rich Asians, Chiarelli had previous movie experience: he wrote the Ryan Reynolds/Sandra Bullock film The Proposal and has a "story by" credit on Now You See Me 2. Lim came from the world of television, having written for shows like Life on Mars, Private Practice, and Lethal Weapon. When she balked at Warner Bros. initial offer because of the pay disparity, THR says "Warners explained to Lim's reps that the quotes are industry-standard established ranges based on experience and that making an exception would set a troubling precedent in the business." Toby Emmerich, the studio chairman, took WB's side in the matter.

Here's where it gets especially interesting. This falling out happened last autumn, and the sequel's production company reportedly spent five months looking for another writer of Asian descent to take Lim's place. They ended up coming back to her in February of this year with an offer that was closer to Chiarelli's, but Lim turned it down.

Chiarelli had offered to split his fee with Lim, but she sees this as a larger issue:

"Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn't be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer," she says. "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."

It probably would have been easy for Lim to accept that second offer, but it's clear that this is an important enough topic for her that she's willing to pass on a big payday and instead speak out in the hopes of trying to tilt the playing field just a few more degrees closer to being level. Meanwhile, Lim is writing the script for Walt Disney Animation's Raya and the Last Dragon, and she has a four-year contract with Disney Animation.

As for the sequels, Chiarelli is now co-writing with returning director Jon M. Chu, and the duo is reportedly still trying to figure out exactly how much of author Kevin Kwan's book trilogy they want to adapt. (His follow-up books include China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems.) Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, and several other cast members from the original movie are set to return, and filming on the back-to-back sequels is being eyed to begin sometime near the end of 2020.