While Marvel Studios may have found the protagonist for their first Asian superhero film, Shang Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, in Simu Liu from the popular Canadian sitcom Kim’s Convenience only recently, the actor in question has been bombarding the studio with the proposition of launching an Asian American hero since 2014!
This was the time when Marvel was busy making films about Captain America, Thor, and Liu reached out to the studio to subtly ask about the possibility of an Asian American hero. Fast forward to 2018, when Marvel announced that they are actually working on Shang Chi, he jokingly pitched himself as the titular hero in another tweet but to his surprise, the studio actually approached him with the role later.
“What was definitely not going through my head was, ‘Hey, I’m going to tweet Marvel and they’re going to get back to me, and I’m going to get this role,'” he shared in a chat with Entertainment Weekly.
Readers of the Marcvel comics are already familiar with Shang Chi’s story- a young man who spent his childhood and a better part of his youth tirelessly training to become an assassin under the watchful eye of his father. But now, it has been years since he left that behind to have a seemingly normal life in America. But his father is not done with him and soon, Shang-Chi finds himself back in the dark world he thought he had ditched.
“The most exciting thing about stepping into this character was that his backstory has never been told before,” Liu shared. “We know so many different versions of Batman’s origin story, how his parents were murdered when he was very young. We know Peter Parker, who was bitten by a radioactive spider, and he loses his uncle. Shang-Chi’s story is very much unknown to most of the world, so we had a lot of freedom and creative liberty to make it the way that we wanted to.”
“The core of Shang-Chi’s arc in the comics is really a family drama,” added producer Jonathan Schwartz. “That was something that Destin keyed into really early on in our conversations, the idea of taking this broken family and this really dark, even abusive family background and seeing what that does to a child over time.”
Though the Asian-American hero is joining the roster of Marvel heroes only now, the conception of Shang-Chi happened in 1973 and reportedly, Stan Lee even attempted to create a Shang-Chi film starring Brandon Lee but it never happened. And now that it is finally materializing, there are many dated racial cliches that had to be done away with before the film reaches the masses.
“When you look at the character of Shang-Chi through the comic books going back to the ’70s and ’80s, the fact that he existed and the fact that he was an Asian character was amazing,” Liu explained. “But at the same time, there are aspects of that portrayal of him that maybe could feel a little stereotypical. So when we first started to map out who this character was and what his journey was going to be over the course of this film, we were all very sensitive to not have it go into stereotypical territory.”
Shang Chi is currently set to debut in theaters on 3rd September 2021.