Crazy Rich Asians, from Book to Film: An Interview with Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan © Giancarlo Ciampini

Editor's Note:

For more from Kevin Kwan, listen to him talk all things Crazy Rich Asians on Will Schwalbe’s podcast, But That’s Another Story.

Crazy Rich Asians took the world by storm when it was published back in 2013, and it is sure to be one of the most talked about books of the summer with the movie adaptation set to release this August. The first in Kevin Kwan’s bestselling trilogy, Crazy Rich Asians follows what happens when Rachel Chu discovers, on a trip to her boyfriend’s hometown in Singapore, that she is dating one of Singapore’s wealthiest, most eligible bachelors. His childhood home is more like a palace, his grandmother is trailed by lady’s maids wherever she goes, and just about every single woman in Singapore is out for Rachel’s blood — as she says in the trailer, Nick is pretty much the Prince Harry of Asia.

We got the chance to catch up with Kevin Kwan in advance of the film hitting theaters to ask him about the adaptation process and what he thinks of the movie.

SIGNATURE: Did the “Crazy Rich Asians” film meet your expectations? Did anything about the movie surprise you?

KEVIN KWAN: It didn’t just meet my expectations; it exceeded my expectations. So many things surprised me in the film. I love the way Jon Chu reimagined some of the scenes in my books and made them even more outrageous and spectacularly cinematic, like Colin Khoo’s bachelor party and Araminta’s big $50 million wedding.

SIG: What aspect of Crazy Rich Asians are you most excited for your readers to see on-screen?

KK: I can’t wait for them to see this world that I have been describing for so many years…to see the beauty of Singapore, the elegant environments, the mouthwatering food, the gorgeous fashions.  And I especially can’t wait for readers to see how brilliantly the actors have portrayed the characters in my books.

SIG: Did you spend any time on set during filming?

KK: I sure did! I was lucky enough to visit the set for two weeks while they were filming on location in Malaysia. It was incredible to be there and to walk through these exquisite sets and see the places I wrote in my book brought to life in such authentic and minute detail.

SIG: What surprised you most about the adaptation process?

KK: I think I was surprised by how long it takes to really bring a book to the big screen, if you want it done right. Every step of the way we refused to compromise and only wanted the best people involved — from the screenwriters to finding our director Jon Chu to our wonderful cast — but I think in the end it was all worth the wait.

SIG: Can you tell us anything about plans for adaptations of the rest of the trilogy?

KK: I know that Warner Bros. is very excited to bring the entire trilogy to the big screen. But ultimately it depends on how well the film does at the box office.

SIG: What inspired you to write Crazy Rich Asians?

KK: For years I had been returning to New York from my trips to Asia and regaling my friends with stories they couldn’t believe were true. I wanted to write them down and make my friends laugh. I never thought it would become what it has.

SIG: Why do we need more rom-com, Cinderella stories with diverse casts of characters?

KK: This is the first Hollywood studio romantic comedy EVER to feature two Asian leads. That is really unbelievable in this day in age. What I hope more than anything is that people will see this film and how amazing the actors are, how beautiful, how funny, how loveable they are, and that there will be lots of other opportunities for them to tell more stories.

SIG: We’re never advocates of seeing the movie before reading the book, but it happens. Is there anything you’d want people who haven’t yet read the book to know before seeing the movie?

KK: I would want them to know that the book is currently available in a lovely paperback format for only $9.60 on Amazon. Seriously, though, I’d want them to know that everything they see in the movie is based on real people, real stories and real places, and that they can dive much deeper into this world by reading the books.

SIG: What’s next for you?

KK: I’m in the midst of creating a TV show, writing my next novel, and a few other surprises I can’t talk about yet.