MUMBAI: Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige says the “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” team ensured that the cast and crew of the feature come from diverse Asian cultures to avoid racial stereotypes at “every turn”.
The superhero film features Chinese-Canadian star Simu Liu as the first Asian to headline a Marvel film. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, who is of Japanese, American, Slovak, and Irish descent, the film also features Hong Kong acting legend Tony Leung.
In a Zoom interview from Los Angeles, Feige said “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was made keeping in mind the authenticity of Asian culture and the global appeal of its messaging.
“Avoiding racial stereotypes was most important because that is not what anyone of us was interested in. We were interested in bringing a new Marvel hero to the screen, who could inspire people around the world–people in Asia, America, the East and the West…At every turn, we wanted to avoid stereotypes. The best way to do that is through the people we hired. You hire amazing people who are amongst the culture that we are portraying in the movie. Dave Callaham (writer), Destin Cretton, Simu, Tony and Michelle Yeoh, all brought nothing but respect and talent to bring this story alive,” Feige told PTI.
The film updates its comic book origins, letting go of Shang Chi’s father Fu Manchu, reported to be a problematic character, and replacing it with Wenwu, an original character for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Feige said that Leung made Wenwu a well-rounded character by going beyond a stereotypical villain. Leung is one of the most celebrated international stars and is known for his work in cinema classics such as “In the Mood for Love” and “Chungking Express” and “2046”.
“We at Marvel have been lucky to have worked with a lot of famous actors, people you could call living legends (but) none of them are as impressive or hit that term legend as much as Tony. He had never been to a Hollywood set before. I live in Los Angeles, sometimes you see other actors around, but Tony was just this mythical figure only in these amazing movies,” he said.
“Meeting him personally, which I only did briefly before the shutdown, was incredible. Wenwu is a new character. We really wanted him to have villainous overtones but to be this well-rounded tragic figure that you feel for in a deep way. Nobody is better than Tony for this. We had high expectations for what he will be able to bring to this movie and he surpassed them all. It is an extremely special performance,” he added.
The producer said that “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”, in its essence, is the “celebration” of the martial arts superhero who undergoes a deeply moving journey. According to Feige, the film’s storyline comes down to what Cretton had pitched to the studio when they first met him to be the director of the movie: Action, family and inspiration.
“This is a Marvel hero origin story about the celebration of this character and the deep meaning behind the journey the character goes on over the course of the movie with his father, his family, leaving his home and returning to it.
These are universal stories and myths that we wanted to take very seriously,” he added. Set after the events of “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), the film follows Shang-Chi who is drawn into the clandestine Ten Rings organisation, and is forced to confront the past he thought he left behind.
The film is set for release in India on September 3. Feige said “Shang Chi” has been on a list of “great characters with great stories” from the Marvel comics for almost 20 years.
“I remember my first two years at Marvel, digging into the comics, looking into the list–which had already been generated before I started–of characters that had great potential, that could become great movie heroes. Shang Chi has been on that list for more than 20 years…Having introduced so many characters, we said, ‘Let’s return to our list of great characters’ and introduce the audience to newer characters’. Marvel movies have ended up happening at the right time. Because if we had tried to make this movie five or ten years ago, Simu would have been too young and Destin would not have been in the position to direct it and Tony might not have been interested in doing a Hollywood movie,” he added.
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” also stars Awkwafina, Meng’er Zhang, Fala Chen, Florian Munteanu and Benedict Wong.