The trend of Hollywood treating people of colour and women poorly continues. Adele Lim, a Malaysian born scribe who co-penned the screenplay of Crazy Rich Asians has left the forthcoming sequel after learning that her co-writer, Peter Chiarelli, was getting paid eight to ten times more than her.
In a The Hollywood Reporter exclusive, Adele Lim mentioned that Hollywood rarely views the contributions of women and POC writers as substantial. Per THR:
“Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” says Lim, who believes that women and people of color often are regarded as “soy sauce” — hired to sprinkle culturally specific details on a screenplay, rather than credited with the substantive work of crafting the story.
According to THR sources, Warner Bros’ starting offer for Peter Chiarelli was around $US 800 000 to US$ 1 million and merely $US 110 000 or so for Adele Lim. Warner Bros explained to Lim’s representatives that the salaries are industry-standard established ranges based on experience.
This is ridiculous and terribly unfair. Yes, it can be argued that Chiarelli has more feature film writing experience than Adele Lim, who made her big-screen debut in Crazy Rich Asians (she mostly wrote episodes of TV prior to that). However, one of the biggest reasons why Crazy Rich Asians ended up being the massive critical success that it is, is because of the writing — smart, funny and uniquely ASIAN.
Look, the wage parity would make sense if we were talking about Aaron freaking Sorkin here, who’s one of the best scriptwriters to ever grace the planet. But no. Peter Chiarelli is the dude who penned The Proposal and contributed story ideas to Now You See Me 2. Crazy Rich Asians is arguably the best screenplay he’s written so far and he penned it together with Adele Lim.
But of course, none of this is Chiarelli’s fault. After Lim walked away from the deal at the end of last year, the studio spent months scouting for other writers of Asian descent. Eventually, they came back to Lim in February with a brand new offer. While the new deal had a much smaller wage disparity between the two writers, it was only because Chiarelli had volunteered to split his fee with her. Lim did not agree to this deal as well. She said:
“Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer. If I couldn’t get pay equity after CRA, I can’t imagine what it would be like for anyone else, given that the standard for how much you’re worth is having established quotes from previous movies, which women of color would never have been [hired for]. There’s no realistic way to achieve true equity that way.”
All of this is frankly disappointing. Every time you think there’s progress being made (i.e. Crazy Rich Asians smashing it at the box office, grossing over $US 238 million worldwide), we just end up getting slapped in the face by major Hollywood studios again. It’s great that Adele Lim decided to stand her ground and fight for what’s right.
The Malaysian born writer is currently working on a screenplay for Disney Animation Studios titled Raya and the Last Dragon, which is set to hit theatres in 2020.