Throwback Crazy Rich Asians

M. Paramita Lin and Doretta Lau fantasy cast Crazy Rich Asians for 2008

The editors of The Unpublishables are somewhat mature in age, and so many of our pop culture references date back to decades ago. While discussing the film version of Crazy Rich Asians, we idly began speculating about what the casting would have been like had it been made in, say 2008, and we realized that during that time, there were a lot of actors who could’ve made it happen.

We decided to fantasy cast the movie according to who was famous at the time and, because this is a Hollywood movie, their ability to act in English. And so, without further ado, our casting for Throwback Crazy Rich Asians!

Nick Young (played by Henry Golding)

Throwback casting
M. Paramita Lin: I think Nick would’ve had to be Nicholas Tse.

Nic Tse

Although he was saddled with a “bad boy” reputation during his heyday, I think he would’ve been able to pull it off with the right hair and clothes. I also think he is a better actor that he’s given credit for and would’ve added a slight edge to the character. Cons: possibly too short. However, if we skipped English-speaking ability altogether, Takeshi Kaneshiro (although maybe too beautiful?).

Takeshi Kaneshiro

Doretta Lau: Takeshi Kaneshiro would have been the perfect 2008 Nick. The entire time I was reading Crazy Rich Asians I imagined a young Tony Leung Chiu Wai.

Tony Leung

Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu)

Throwback casting
MPL: I’m grateful that Lucy Liu was too old to play this role by 2008 because you know Hollywood would’ve wanted her in it. Instead, I nominate Grace Park, who has a very American look but doesn’t come off as corrosive or annoying. I think she would’ve had a strong presence and held her own.

Grace Park

DL: If we were doing nineties casting, I would say that Ming Na would be my choice for Rachel.

Ming Na Wen

DL: But if we’re doing 2008 casting, I have to go with Kea Wong, who played Jubilee in two X-Men movies.

Kea Wong

Kea Wong


Astrid Leong (played by Gemma Chan)

Throwback casting
MPL: Maggie Cheung is still the ultimate Astrid, but for a different generation.

Maggie Cheung

I think Hollywood would’ve probably cast someone like Maggie Q, unfortunately. With that said, Michelle Reis (not sure if she can speak English, though) would’ve been a decent alternative because she can act and fashion.

Maggie Q

Michelle Reis

DL: Astrid is tough because she’s the coolest, classiest, and most beautiful girl ever. (Which is definitely why M. Paramita Lin is right about a young Maggie Cheung.) Most of the actresses I can think of in 2008 are more girl next door types. If we’re going on looks alone, I’d choose Liu Wen, even if she though she was only in her early twenties at the time.

Liu Wen

Liu Wen

Charlie Wu (played by Harry Shum, Jr.)

Throwback casting
MPL: Initially, I thought Daniel Wu could do this role, but then I remembered that Wang Lee Hom exists and actually was fairly famous at the time. So I nominate him instead. Charlie is a kind of boy-next-door type whose greatest trait is loyalty, right? You’re not really looking for someone with a lot of complexity.

Wang Lee Hom

DL: John Cho. (I disagree that the actor playing Charlie doesn’t have to be complex, but maybe it’s because I’m a Charlie stan and I believe that “good” characters can have depth.) In 2008 John Cho should have been the star of every single romantic comedy. But you know, Hollywood racism.

John Cho

Michael Teo (played by Pierre Png)

Throwback casting
MPL: At first, I was thinking maybe Edison Chen but when I looked at his pictures from that time period, he looked like a teenager. So I think Doretta is right that Daniel Wu would’ve been the right one for the role.

Daniel Wu

DL: Based on looks, this is the Daniel Wu role for me. In fact, I was sure he’d be cast even in 2018. I would also accept Carl Ng as Michael.

Carl Ng

Carl Ng

Go Peik-Lin (played by Awkwafina)

Throwback casting
MPL: No weird blackface performances allowed here, and there’s only one answer to this role: Michelle Chong, who was already around at the time.

DL: I would cast Sandra Oh on the strength of her performance in Mina Shum’s Double Happiness. (I’ve never seen Grey’s Anatomy.)

Kitty Pong (played by Fiona Xie)

Throwback casting
MPL: Okay, I’m going to preface this with: I love Shu Qi. I stan for her so hard that I stopped speaking for a week to a friend who dismissed her as a C-list actress. But I think Shu Qi would kick ass in this role because she has a great sense of humour and she knows what it’s like to have to use your body to get somewhere, and that adds some pathos and depth to the character.

Shu Qi

DL: Kitty Pong is my favourite character in the entire Crazy Rich Asians series. I think Zhang Ziyi is perfect for the role. She may not have the comedy chops, but has the right kind of naked ambition to elevate the role.

Zhang Ziyi

Zhang Ziyi


Doretta Lau on the Hot Men of Crazy Rich Asians

Interview with author Kevin Kwan

Leave a Reply