How ‘Shang-Chi’ Cast Simu Liu as Marvel’s Next Avenger

In July 2019, Marvel Studios introduced 6,500 screaming fans to Simu Liu, who just a few days earlier had been secretly cast in the lead role of Simu Liu. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

“He went on stage and started to speak Mandarin and flashed a billion dollar smile,” recalls Shang-Chi screenwriter Dave Callaham of that moment at San Diego Comic-Con. “[Marvel’s] Victoria Alonso came to see me after the party afterwards. She put her hand on my shoulder. “Now that’s an Avenger.”

Liu was then best known for starring in the Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience. Now, he’s making headlines for Marvel’s first superhero movie to focus on an Asian lead, with the film opening exclusively in theaters this weekend, where it’s setting records. Labor Day. The road to get there was not easy.

“He went through a long and arduous audition process, and he absolutely nailed every audition,” said Sarah Finn, Marvel’s head of casting. CHEAP in Shang-Chi’premieres August 16. “He really earned it.”

Others also recalled being impressed by how much effort Liu went to to land the part.

Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said: “Lots of readings, lots of auditions, more about casting a superhero,”There’s no magic formula. It’s a feeling. It’s a sense of both being relevant and grounded, and displacing your place in that hero population. “

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Marvel Studios’ Simu Liu ”Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” at the Marvel Studios Convention at San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 in Hall H on July 20, 2019 in San Diego, California.
Photo of Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

Shang-Chi took years to make it to the big screen. The character debuted in 1973 Marvel Special Edition Number 15 and created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin who originally wanted to adapt Kung Fu TV series for comics, but cannot get copyright.

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Starlin said: “This character has a history that is close to being on the screen. “I’m not sure if it will ever happen.”

While Shang-Chi’s comic book history has Asians and stereotypes that the production has shied away from, the tale of a conflicting father and son has resonated with Marvel Studios.

In a period of time, Shang-Chi The film crew is mostly a single executive in a room at Marvel’s Burbank headquarters. Feige and Marvel producer Jonathan Schwartz both wanted to make the movie, and Schwartz was tasked with diving deep into the comics to see what might work.

“We created material about what gets us excited about the character and what gets us excited about the movie,” says Schwartz. “Things we want to continue, things we want to change.”

Play as screenwriter Callaham, who in the fall of 2018 quickly rose to the top of the pile of hopes for the job. A few months after recruiting Callaham, Marvel made it public that Shang-Chi already in the works, something that doesn’t always happen at the stage of script development.

“They were trying to get rid of Asian directors who raised their hands,” recalls Callaham. “They wanted it not to be a rumor that they were going to make an Asian-American movie. They want to say, ‘This is an ongoing movie. We spent money on someone. We are really serious. ‘”

Among those paying attention was Liu, who sent a famous 2018 tweet in it he asks, “OK @Marvel, we’ll have a nice talk #ShangChi.” (He recently told CHEAP he never dreamed anything would happen to it, and apparently, Feige never saw the tweet until he was cast.)

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Destin Daniel Cretton, then best known for his favorite indie genre Short term 12, took the directing job in the spring of 2019 and went out drinking with Callaham, who as a blockbuster scribe might not feel a good fit for Cretton’s more introspective work. But the pair beat it in no time.

“We were both a little nervous about how it would work, but everything turned out great. We value all the same things about storytelling,” Callaham said. “In the past, I was more inclined to blow those things up, he gave them nourishment and care, which was great.”

Suddenly Shang-Chi The team went from one person in one room, two in one room, to three.

“Dave and I banged our heads against the wall for a long time. And then Dave, Destin and I banged our heads against the wall for a long time,” Schwartz said. “It’s certainly good to channel the director’s fresh energy which is always a great addition to the mix. I think we solved a lot of problems together and put the ball on the pitch.”

Cretton has focused on the familial aspect of the story, which sees Liu’s Shang-Chi clash with his estranged father Wenwu (Chau Wai Leung) and reunite with his younger sister, Xialing (Meng’). er Zhang). The filmmaker also brings along members of his filmmaker family, including Just Mercy and Glass Castle screenwriter Andrew Laham, a move that helps make the machinery of a giant movie feel more relatable and manageable to Cretton.

“I started getting scared and felt like I was going to explode because I had never done anything like this before,” Cretton recalls how he feels at the start of any film. “So is this movie. All I can hope for us is to be surrounded by a healthy and supportive team. “

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(LR) Awkwafina, Simu Liu and Director Destin Daniel Cretton attend the “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” World Premiere at El Capitan Theater on August 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo of Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

Awkwafina is the first actor to join the project as Katy, Shaun’s (Liu) best friend, who has accompanied him on an incredible journey. So she has a role in reading back the hopes for the Shang-Chi part.

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“Simu is grounded and has a heart. That really comes into the character,” Awkwafina said of what stands out about Liu. “He’s really passionate.”

Liu spent about four months training before filming, as executive producer Charles Newirth recalls: “He was the game for everything.”

The team then spent 13 months in Australia filming, as the continent was ravaged by the New South Wales bushfires and as production faced a COVID-19 shutdown.

“It’s a testament to the dedication of the crew that we’ve gotten through it all,” Liu said at the premiere, a bit emotional as he marveled at those in the crowd who cosplayed as Shang-Chi figure.

The premiere came just over two years after Liu received a call from Feige informing him that he would be getting the role of a lifetime.

“I felt really explosive,” Liu said of the moment. “I felt like the studio was really backing us up and I felt like a million dollars.”

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Simu Liu (R) poses during the World Premiere of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” at El Capitan Theater on August 16, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty

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