Gemma Chan is set to pay tribute to another actress. Following roles in blockbusters including “Eternals,” “Captain Marvel,” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” Chan will portray Hollywood’s first Chinese American star: Anna May Wong. In addition to leading the biopic, Chan is developing it alongside producer Nina Yang Bongiovi and Working Title Films. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news.
Wong, who had over 60 film credits to her name, was born in LA in 1905 and died in 1961. She eventually left Hollywood for Europe due to a lack of opportunities: yellowface casting was prevalent and California’s anti-miscegenation laws prevented her from kissing any co-star of another race. MGM famously refused to consider her as the female lead for “The Good Earth,” a drama about Chinese farmers. Luise Rainer, a white German actress, was cast in the role, and went on to win an Oscar for it.
“Piccadilly,” “Daughter of the Dragon,” and “Shanghai Express” are among Wong’s best known films. She made history in 1951 by playing the first Asian American lead in an American television series with “The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong.”
“Anna May Wong was a trailblazer, an icon, and a woman ahead of her time,” said Chan. “Her talent and her exploration of her art both in and outside of the U.S. was groundbreaking — and the challenges and prejudice she faced in the early 20th century as an actress speak directly to the conversations and the world we are navigating today.”
“David Henry Hwang, the first Asian American playwright to win a Tony (in 1988 for ‘M. Butterfly’), is penning the screenplay, adapted from Graham Russell Gao Hodges’ 2012 biography, ‘Anna May Wong: From Laundryman’s Daughter to Hollywood Legend,’” per THR.
Wong’s niece, Anna Wong, is serving as a consultant on the film. “I’m delighted that I’ll get to build on my aunt’s legacy with Gemma and Nina, who are Asian leaders in the forefront of storytelling,” she emphasized. “Anna May Wong’s presence in American and worldwide cinema was the first of its kind, and her representation continues to resonate today. She is the embodiment of inspiration for artists of color.”
Michelle Krusiec (“Saving Face”) portrayed Wong in “Hollywood,” Ryan Murphy’s Emmy-winning Netflix series.