Destin is a Maui native. Shang-Chi director Daniel Cretton on directing a big-budget Marvel film.
n Friday, Marvel Studios will premiere its first movie featuring an Asian superhero. Simu Liu, a young actor best known for the Canadian television series Kim’s Convenience, appears in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh, both martial arts movie icons, appear in the film. Destin Daniel Cretton, who was born and bred in Maui, is the director. Russell Subiono of The Conversation talked with Cretton about the film. (For clarity, the interview has been modified.)
SUBIONO: At the outset of your profession, you created a few minor features. I’m not a hipster in the least. 12. Short Term The Glass Castle is an architectural marvel. Just Mercy is the name of the game. What do you believe Marvel saw in those films that made them confident in entrusting you with this project?
CRETTON: At its heart, this film is a modest family story wrapped up in the genres of martial arts and huge action superheroes. And I believe that a focus on character and relationships is one of Marvel’s strengths in all of their films. I believe that’s what people related to in the films I’ve made up to this point. And that was something they continually reminded me of, to remember to include in this film as well.
SUBIONO: Within the picture, I saw a really strong family dynamic. And you know who we are because we are from Hawai‘i. Your family is really powerful. As a result, I found that aspect of the picture very appealing.
On the Big Island, I grew up in Waimea. I’m aware that you grew up in Haiku, Maui. Our communities have similar demographics, and we’re about the same age. I still believe I’m a few years away from being able to create a program for NPR. What was it like to transition from a tiny town to a little movie? Do you want to be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Were you completely prepared? Isn’t it still a bit of a leap of faith?
CRETTON: Every film seems like a total leap of faith to me. Every time I go into pre-production on a film, I feel totally out of my element. I’m wondering how I got here in the first place. I’m not going to be able to pull this off. All of the self-doubt enters the picture. And I’m not sure. The more I learn about this business and meet more individuals who I respect and appreciate — and who I admire their work — the more I discover that those who I truly respect the job that they do share my sentiments. They often experience self-doubt as a result of the strain.
And those, to me, are individuals who are just honest, because no matter what sector you’re in, if you’re pushing your own boundaries, you’re constantly doing something you haven’t done before, so it’s always going to be terrifying. And although it was terrifying at first, I was fortunate to be working with a fantastic team of individuals who I came to like. Also this is a family drama on television. Over the span of the two years it took to make it, we really became a family behind the camera.
How much did Simu Liu’s tweet influence his casting as Shang-Chi when Marvel revealed his intention to reintroduce Shang-Chi into the MCU back in 2018?
[Laughter] CRETTON: In fact, I don’t think so. I mean, I’m not sure what was going on, and maybe there were some good feelings floating about in the ether, but we didn’t find out about the tweet till later. The harsh truth is that Simu was miraculously found by our first casting director, Sarah Finn, who was scouring the industry for any actor who might potentially play this part. Simu then stepped in and showed himself time and time again over the course of three grueling auditions. And he’s just shown that he’s the perfect fit for this role.
SUBIONO: My family and I are big fans of Kim’s Convenience, so we were overjoyed when he was cast.
CRETTON: That’s fantastic.
SUBIONO: This year, I’ve spoken with a number of actors and filmmakers who are either from Hawai‘i or have strong ties to the state, and the general consensus I’ve heard is that opportunities for indigenous and minority filmmakers to tell stories that would have been nearly impossible to tell 20 or 30 years ago are increasing. Do you think the film business is becoming more inclusive as a result of your experiences?
What would be your ideal project if additional doors opened for you?
CRETTON: I believe that, in general, I am witnessing an increase in the number of individuals ascending to positions of power, who are now decision-makers, who are either minorities themselves or genuine advocates of diversity. I’d say it’s still a sluggish train, and we’re all still fighting the pressures of an old system that won’t let in fresh, varied perspectives. But I’ve discovered that it’s moving in a good direction, which is wonderful. It’s thrilling to have been able to contribute to a film like this, which would not have been considered a possibility even five or ten years ago. So I’m looking forward to the future.
I’m thrilled about the industry’s continued understanding that until we start telling stories that represent the people who watch television and movies, as well as the real variety of the world around us, we won’t be able to remain relevant as an industry. In terms of my ideal project, any film I am making at the moment is my dream project. I create movies without thinking about anything other than the film I’m working on. And for now, this film is my ideal project. I’m hoping that the next one will be a dream project for me as well.
SUBIONO: Have you watched any movies or TV shows this year that you would suggest to our readers or that you believe more people should watch?
CRETTON: Minari was not nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. We shared an editor, Harry Yoon, who edited Menari and was also on Shang-Chi, who edited it. That is one suggestion I believe people should consider. I haven’t had much opportunity to view a lot of stuff lately. But, you know, I was able to see Judas and the Black Messiah, starring Lakeith Stanfield, and I thought it was a fantastic film.
SUBIONO: He was fantastic in Short Term 12, which was my favorite film of the year. As I have said, my family and I are enormous. Fans of Kim’s convenience. So, my question is: is there a hidden kimchi cameo in the movie?
[Laughter] CRETTON: I’m not aware of any, but it’s possible.
SUBIONO: Well, I figured I’d inquire. I had a great time seeing the movie.
CRETTON: You’re welcome.
SUBIONO: I’m half-Hawaiian and half-Chinese. As a result, I’m looking forward to the Hawaiian superhero that will appear at some point in the future.
CRETTON: That’s a fair point. That’s a great combination. Hawaiian and Chinese cuisine are also popular.
also see source: