Marvel casts first Chinese superhero Shang-Chi

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 23, 2019
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The official logo of "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." [Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios]

Marvel will launch the first stand-alone Chinese superhero flick "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," according to Marvel Studios' President Kevin Feige who introduced the lineup of feature films for the next two years at the San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday.

In an surprise unveiling, which was attended by thousands of fans at Comic-Con's Hall H, Feige revealed the long-anticipated cast of the movie. He confirmed that the Chinese-Canadian actor, Liu Simu, best known for his role in CBC's TV sitcom "Kim's Convenience," will play the film's lead character - Shang-Chi.

"I was cast on Tuesday. I screen-tested on Sunday in New York. I feel like I was kind of this social experiment, 'Let's just take this guy, an ordinary guy, living in Toronto. Let's tell him he's going to be in the next Marvel movie and give him four days to prep for it.' This is just the craziest, craziest, dream," Liu said. 

Liu, who was born in Harbin in China's Heilongjiang province, immigrated to Canada with his parents when he was 5, growing up in Mississauga, a suburb of Toronto. His first big screen role was as an extra on Guillermo del Toro's movie, "Pacific Rim."

Chinese-Canadian actor Simu Liu speaks at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 Marvel Studios Panel at Hall H in San Diego, California, USA, on July 20, 2019. He will play the lead role in Marvel Studios' "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." [Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios]

The Japanese-American film director Destin Daniel Cretton, best known for his collaborations in films such as "Short Term 12" with Brie Larson, will direct the new Marvel movie -- interestingly, Larson had already starred as Captain Marvel in a previous Marvel film. 

Feige shared with the audience that "Crazy Rich Asians" star Awkwafina will be cast in a yet-to-be-disclosed role. He also revealed that the iconic character, The Mandarin, will be played by celebrated Chinese actor Tony Leung, best known for his roles in many all-time classic Chinese films such as "Infernal Affairs," "In the Mood for Love," "Lust, Caution" and "The Grandmaster."

The original setting in the comic book version of the kung-fu master Shang-Chi, has generated a lot of buzz and controversy in China in recent days. Criticisms ranged from the film's casting choices to the notorious fictional father. However, Shang-Chi's appearance and movements were modeled after Bruce Lee, a Chinese kung-fu icon who gained widespread popularity in Hollywood in the 1970s, and whom Stan Lee was reportedly a big fan of. 

President of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige and director Destin Daniel Cretton of Marvel Studios' movie "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" greet fans at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 Marvel Studios Panel at Hall H in San Diego, California, USA, on July 20, 2019. [Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios]

In the original comic, Shang-Chi has no "superpower," but only possessed a mastery of martial arts fighting and meditation skills, as well as various cold weapons. Using these skills, he even trains Spider-Man and joins the Avengers.  

To break into the huge Chinese market, Marvel Studios will modify the setting for the character of "The Mandarin." The role was referenced in the very first Marvel film "Iron Man" in 2008 through the name of a terrorist group known as The Ten Rings, while an impostor of the Mandarin was played by Ben Kingsley in "Iron Man 3." Now, the real Mandarin will appear in Marvel's upcoming Shang-Chi movie. 

The Chinese-American screenwriter, Dave Callaham, known for his work on "The Expendables," is writing the script for the new Shang-Chi movie and will update its story for modern audiences. Director Cretton noted that Marvel conducted "a really in-depth search to find someone who will capture all the dimensions that he deserves," and eventually found Liu. 

"My parents emigrated from China to Canada 25 years ago with nothing except the hopes and dreams to build a family and a life for their kids," Liu Simu said, "All I've ever wanted to do growing up was to make them proud."

The studio hopes the film will become a new cultural phenomenon just like the "Black Panther" did last year, and the success of "Crazy Rich Asians" also showed the huge market potential for an Asian-themed Hollywood movie.

Liu later tweeted: "Now that the craziness is over, the work begins. There is so much at stake here; we are fighting for our identity, for our right to be seen, to BELONG." 

"Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" will hit theaters in North America and other markets on Feb. 12, 2021, during China's important Spring Festival. The release date for China has not yet been announced.

Cast and filmmakers for the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films pose for a group photo at the San Diego Comic-Con International 2019 Marvel Studios Panel at Hall H, in San Diego, California, the United States, on July 20, 2019. [Photo courtesy of The Walt Disney Studios]

Other exciting Marvel film projects revealed by Feige on Saturday include "The Eternals," which will be directed by Chinese director Zhao Ting, also known as Chloé Zhao, and will star Angelina Jolie and Don Lee. Other upcoming films in the pipeline include "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness," "Thor: Love and Thunder," "Black Widow," and the reboot of "Blade" with Academy Award-winning Mahershala Ali playing the lead role.

Kevin Feige also shared new information in San Diego on the brand-new Marvel Studios' series created exclusively for Disney+, Disney's new streaming service launching in the U.S. on Nov. 12. The new series will include "The Falcon and The Winter Soldier," "WandaVision," "Loki," "What If…?", and "Hawkeye." 

Feige elicited thunderous cheers after he intentionally (but casually) told fans there were films he didn't have time to talk about, such as "Black Panther 2," "Captain Marvel 2," "Fantastic Four," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" and movies about mutants (possibly for "X-Men"). 

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