Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Destin Daniel Cretton and Kevin Feige on Shang-Chi - VRGyani News and Media

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Friday, September 3, 2021

Simu Liu, Awkwafina, Destin Daniel Cretton and Kevin Feige on Shang-Chi

From director Destin Daniel Cretton and Marvel Studios, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is the superhero origin story for a guy named Shaun (Simu Liu), who’s living in San Francisco and working as a parking valet with his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) when he is suddenly faced with the past he thought he left behind. Pursued by his estranged father (Tony Leung) and needing the help of his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), if they are to defeat the mysterious Ten Rings organization, Shaun must push past his childhood trauma and embrace every part of himself, in order to fully step into his power as Shang-Chi.

During a global press conference for the film, co-stars Liu and Awkwafina, along with Cretton and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, talked about why the story of Shang-Chi was an important one to tell, how the fearlessness of the studio allowed them to take risks with the film, whether Shaun and Katy are each other’s potential love interests or just friends, and why they wanted to focus on both the character and the culture.

Question: Kevin, going back to the early days of the MCU, what was the biggest risk that you felt like you made when you were still building people’s trust, that you feel paid off?

KEVIN FEIGE: Great question. We didn’t build it from scratch. There was a thing called comic books that had existed for many, many decades. The dream was to bring that to the big screen. That is what we were doing. And I was lucky to be involved in early Spider-Man films and X-Men films, but we wanted to do an Iron Man movie. I still think the biggest risk, which seems outrageous to say now, was casting Robert Downey, Jr. That was both the biggest risk and the most important thing, in the founding of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without Robert, we wouldn’t be sitting here today. I really believe that. Everybody knew he was an amazing actor, but he hadn’t been an action star. He wasn’t a marquis star, necessarily. We quickly realized the risk was not casting him. Jon Favreau really had that vision for that movie and for Robert in that role. That decision and the success of that decision, empowered us with further risks and further choices.

RELATED: Simu Liu on ‘Shang-Chi’ and What His MCU Superfan Friend Does Before Every Marvel Release

Did you have tons of people saying no?

FEIGE: There were some people saying no and some people saying, “Are you sure?”

Destin, did you really work as a professional social worker for two years, at a group home for at-risk teenagers?

DESTIN DANIEL CRETTON: I wasn’t technically a social worker. My title was a childcare worker at a group home for at-at-risk teenagers. I did that for two years before I went to film school.

How do you feel that job has affected your storytelling?

CRETTON: That job affected my entire life and my world view. I feel like the stories that I am drawn to are a combination of humor and optimism, but also don’t shy away from the very real darkness and paid that we all experience as humans. I think this movie really does encapsulate a lot of the things that I really believe in.

What was it about Shang-Chi, the character and the world around him, that really made you want to tell this story? Did Ryan Coogler have any advice for you, about entering the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

CRETTON: I really, personally connect with Shang-Chi’s journey. I love that this is a superhero that doesn’t get splashed with chemicals to get his superpower. It is a journey of self-discovery, of growing up, of learning how to finally deal with the pain that he’s been running away from his entire life. When he is finally able to look inside, into his past, and embrace the good, the bad, the joy and the pain, and accept it all as a part of himself, that’s when he finally steps into his big boy shoes. That what we’re all doing as humans, in some way or another. So, I really connect with that. I did have a giant personal fear of stepping into a movie like this. When I pitched to Kevin, one of the things that I told myself was that I was just gonna be myself. I have a tendency to be pressured to not be myself, and I was like, “I’m just gonna be myself in this pitch and walk out feeling good that I did that.” The last thing that I admitted was, they asked me, “Have you always wanted to do a big Marvel movie?” I wondered if I should tell them, but the truth was, a few weeks before they announced that they were looking for directors for this movie, I made a very real decision and called my agent and said, “Don’t ever let me do a Marvel movie.”

I said that in the pitch, and then explained to them that when they made the announcement for Shang-Chi, something sparked in me that made me have to go in and just take a meeting, and that turned into this. When I was in the elevator going down, after leaving that meeting, I thought, “You’re an idiot for saying that.” When it came down to it, I did have a conversation with Ryan Coogler. I was scared of stepping into a big studio movie like this and scared of what it might do to me and whether I’d cave under the pressure. I had a lot of fears. The things that Ryan said to me, which really eased my mind was, “The pressure is hard. It’ll be the hardest thing, potentially, that you have done, up to this point. But none of that pressure and none of those complications come from the people that you’re working with or for.” And that’s what I found. This is a very special place to work. Not to toot Kevin’s horn, but there is an environment of curiosity and of exploration that comes from the top down. There is no fear-based mentality at this studio, which has really allowed us to take risks and chances and be able to instill that same fearless exploration with everybody involved in this film. That’s a huge reason that the movie turned out the way that it did.

Awkwafina, what was more physically demanding, this movie or SpongeBob?

AWKWAFINA: There’s much to be said about voice acting and what I’m wearing at the time. This was slightly more physically demanding. But not physically demanding with wind and water. I was falling, so it was more like I was working as a team with gravity. When I fall, my neck gives out. It’s a me problem. I just don’t have the willpower to lift it up. That’s where I’m at physically.

Did you have to practice with a bow and arrow a lot, and for the car stunts?

AWKWAFINA: I did, yeah. I actually went to a racetrack and learned how to drift, which is really fun, but probably not practical, in any scenario with traffic. And then, I learned how to shoot a bow and arrow.

Simu, did you really get this role by tweeting about it?

SIMU LIU: That’s a great question. I would love for Kevin to answer this. When you tweet at Marvel, you think it’s going to some 19-year-old intern with acne.

AWKWAFINA: If even.

LIU: No one’s gonna read that. No one cares what I have to say.

FEIGE: I did not see that [tweet]. Simu, it was not your tweeting. It was your acting ability, your constant professionalism, and the multiple reads and meetings that you did, that got you the job. Did our casting director, Sarah Finn, see that? I don’t know the answer to that question, but I don’t think so.

LIU: Speak it into the universe and it will find a way.

RELATED: Awkwafina on ‘Shang-Chi’ and Why She Always Wants to Make the Camera Person Laugh

Simu, what was it like to be on set with legends like Tony Leung, Michelle Yeoh and Sir Ben Kingsley?

LIU: It was like having imposter syndrome, every single day. No. Truly, it was such a treat. It was all I could do just not to mess it up. When I was first cast, I did my final screen test with Nora (Awkwafina), and she did such a wonderful job of putting me at ease. My nerves were sky high. I was an actor from Toronto. I really had never allowed myself to imagine being a part of the MCU. It’s the craziest dream that someone can possibly dream, and Nora did such a great job of putting me at ease and just being in the moment with me. We had such a beautiful chemistry. We has this bickery, old couple chemistry, right from the get-go.

AWKWAFINA: Yeah, we slipped into that very quickly.

LIU: That was so beautiful. And as I met more members of the cast, like Tony and Michelle and Sir Ben, every day was like waking up to another dream. It was really beautiful. And then, having Meng’er come and join us too, when we were all in Sydney, was fantastic because she was great.

The friendship between Shaun and Katy is so great. Were the characters thought out as best friends, or are they potential love interests?

AWKWAFINA: I’m gonna let Destin answer that one because I don’t even know what to say.

CRETTON: Aren’t all friendships potential love interests? When one of my co-writers, Dave Callaham, and I were creating this relationship, we actually have a lot of friends who are not the same gender as us and it is strictly platonic, but also very intimate and caring. We haven’t seen a lot of that on screen, and we’re really excited to create that relationship between Shang-Chi and Katy. It also just naturally felt like the only way to go with this movie because Shang-Chi is so deep in his own inner struggle. I don’t think there’s emotional space for anything else.

AWKWAFINA: Yeah, I don’t think he has room in his life. He has so much going on, for a neurotic girlfriend. Should we go to couple’s therapy now?

Simu, how did you prepare for your stunt scenes?

LIU: It’s really about the stretching.

AWKWAFINA: It’s necessary because it loosens up everything.

LIU: Yes, exactly.

CRETTON: He actually did a back flip into the Black Widow pose, with a hair flip up, looking straight into the camera, as the closer to his first audition.

LIU: I thought it was a good signature, like a nice little calling card. I thought it couldn’t hurt. I was auditioning for a Marvel movie, which is a superhero franchise, so I wanted to show them that I could pull off the superhero pose. I thought maybe that would help.

Destin, what was your process for writing the lines in Mandarin?

CRETTON: The conversation behind which language should be spoken was always rooted in the logic of the characters and who would naturally be speaking what language. That conversation started in the writing, and then once our actors came in, it was always a dialog. These are all bilingual, trilingual, quadrilingual characters, who could speak whatever made sense, at the time. We were constantly having the discussion of what made sense for the scene.

At what point did the film become less about the franchise and more about the culture and the Asian experience?

FEIGE: Well, it was always about both. My producing partner on this film, Jonathan Schwartz, has worked on this movie for a long time. We wanted to do it for both of those reasons, to bring this specific character into the MCU and to bring representation of another kind to this film. That was really what Destin brought in his pitch. It was really the story of this father and son. Someday he should put that presentation out into the world because it was as beautiful as the final film.

CRETTON: What is extra relevant to the culture is that this is a Marvel film. If we were not putting Shang-Chi shoulder to shoulder with all of the amazing other Marvel superheroes that we’ve come to love in the past, that would be a big disservice to the culture and the character. So, I think both are equally important.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in theaters on September 3rd.



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