Filmmaker Lulu Wang has criticized the choice of Ron Howard to direct a biopic about pianist Lang Lang, arguing that the project would be better served by someone with a more “intimate understanding of Chinese culture.”
Howard, who won an Oscar for directing 2001′s “A Beautiful Mind” and was nominated for 2008′s “Frost/Nixon,” tweeted Tuesday that adapting Lang Lang’s memoir, “Journey of a Thousand Miles,” into a movie would be a “personal adventure... and an opportunity to really transport audiences.”
Lang Lang, one of the executive producers on the project, wrote on Instagram that Howard is a “genius that can observe different cultures.”
Bringing Lang Lang’s extraordinary childhood and career journey to the screen promises to be an amazing creative experience for all of us involved. I’m thankful for Lang Lang’s trust. I know it will be a personal adventure for me and an opportunity to really transport audiences. https://t.co/89AjJ2DJXi— Ron Howard (@RealRonHoward) September 22, 2020
Following the announcement that Howard would direct, Wang, who filmed 2019′s “The Farewell” and is also a classically trained pianist, wrote that she did not think Howard and Brian Grazer, who will produce the film and has frequently acted as Howard’s production partner, were the right choices.
Wang pointed out the “cultural specificities” of Lang Lang’s northeast China home city of Shenyang as well as how the pianist’s life had been affected by the Cultural Revolution. She also compared the situation to Disney’s recent live-action remake of “Mulan,” which has been criticized for the predominantly white talent behind its direction (Niki Caro) and screenplay as well as the decision to film in Xinjiang, where Uighur Muslims have been detained en masse.
Wang clarified that she personally was not looking to direct the movie but was simply “fucking exhausted” at the lack of representation behind films such as this one.
As a classically-trained pianist born in China, I believe it's impossible to tell Lang Lang's story without an intimate understanding of Chinese culture + the impact of the Cultural Revolution on artists & intellectuals + the effects of Western imperialism. Just saying.🧐 https://t.co/63B14TCsRB— Lulu Wang (@thumbelulu) September 22, 2020
I'm not saying this because I want to direct this movie. I do not. I just don't think these are the artists to grapple w/ the cultural specificities of Northeast China where Lang Lang (and my family) are from. Or w/ the cultural aspect of the physical violence in his upbringing.— Lulu Wang (@thumbelulu) September 22, 2020
Have we learned NOTHING from Mulan? I haven't said anything because yes representation and many people I love are involved, but I just have to. Just HAVE to. Because 2020 man... and I'm fucking exhausted.— Lulu Wang (@thumbelulu) September 22, 2020
“The Farewell,” a story inspired by the filmmaker’s own life, showcased a Chinese family struggling to keep a grandmother’s cancer diagnosis a secret. But during the financing process, Wang faced pressure to insert a white character into the movie to ensure its success ― a change that the film ultimately did not need. It surpassed the likes of “Avengers: Endgame” for biggest box office average of 2019.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.