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In recent years, the fresh and successful romantic comedy has seemed like a relic of the past... but that was only up until Crazy Rich Asians took the box office by storm. The film is based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, but as many cinephiles know, book adaptations are famously difficult to tackle because the material is typically much more detailed than a movie can be. And while some of the extra material does get filmed, it can get the axe in the editing suite. The full extent of these cuts is always interesting, and editor of Crazy Rich Asians, Myron Kerstein, recently spoke with me about the challenge to cut down the story, and some of the difficult decisions they had to make, including,
[One cut was] a big set-piece karaoke scene, where Rachel and Nick, they actually know each other in the film, but they act like they don't know each other. So it's like this traditional romantic-comedy trope, and it was pretty well done, but we thought in service of the film we didn't think we needed it.
Wait, wait... we did not know seeing Constance Wu and Henry Golding belt out a cheesy karaoke song together was ever on the table, but it sounds like it would have been a fun addition to the film. The scene served as an original introduction to the couple, however, Myron Kerstein and director Jon Chu decided to take it out in favor of spending more time in Singapore. By cutting this bit, the filmmakers more of the opportunity to set Crazy Rich Asians apart from other rom-coms with its release, making an entertaining cliché such as this not a must.
But that wasn't the only deleted sequence Myron Kerstein detailed during our interview. For example, there was originally going to be a version of Crazy Rich Asians that spent a bit more time dedicated to Charlie Wu, portrayed by Harry Shum Jr. Said the filmmaker,
There was a big debate about Astrid's storyline, famously with Harry Shum Jr., but his role was limited. That was actually much bigger. We basically cut a big dance number between Gemma and Harry just in the body of the wedding reception, and that takes a lot of balls to cut Harry Shum. He's a pretty incredible dancer, but we had to service Astrid's storyline. There was the scene in the body of the wedding reception that had [Charlie Wu] say to Astrid, 'You're better than your husband, you should leave him.' And we're like, 'No, no, no. We want Astrid to do this for herself. She's a strong woman. You don't need a man telling you what to do.' That was a tough call.
Fans of the book know that Astrid's storyline plays a much larger role in the source material, with past-lover Charlie Wu being someone she reconnects with at the wedding. However, Harry Shum Jr. only ended up being in a end-credit scene in Crazy Rich Asians, as a nod to the novel and to open up a possibility for Charlie to have a bigger role in the confirmed sequel, China Rich Girlfriend. The filmmakers' conscious decision to have Astrid decide to leave Michael on her own enriches the character as well.
Myron Kerstein further revealed that he and Jon Chu also had to cut a lot of footage from the bachelorette/bachelor party scenes, which even in the theatrical version still see Rachel and Nick overwhelmed with the planned festivities for the bride and groom. As Kerstein detailed,
That section of the movie used to be maybe like 30 minutes in itself, and we had these gigantic set pieces where they're having the time of their lives on the freighter ship and we thought, 'Well, do we really need all this material to tell her story?' And don't we want to be short and sweet with saying that they arrived in the ship and then get on with their story. It was just an overwhelming amount of stories to keep trimming down. And also in the back of our heads we were thinking most romantic comedies clock in around an hour-and-a-half or so, and we were starting with a three-hour cut... But yes, there's tons of scenes when everyone wants to buy the DVD.
Since Crazy Rich Asians turned out to be two hours long, it looks like about an hour of footage had to be cut in order for it to follow more in the footsteps of adaptations such as The Devil Wears Prada and less like The Lord of the Rings franchise. The rom-com hit is currently in theaters for you to check out. Of course, after news of a karaoke scene, dance number and more hilarious moments between the cast, it will soon come time to look forward to the home release, likely to be released before the start of 2019.