Tony Leung informs Disney about Shang-Chi controversy

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 21, 2019
Adjust font size:
Promotional photo of Hong Kong actor Tony Leung from Marvel Studios. He will play the role of The Mandarin in the first Chinese superhero film "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]

Legendary Hong Kong actor Tony Leung has taken note of the controversy surrounding the upcoming Shang-Chi movie and reported this to Disney, a collaborating director said.

Marvel Studios' President Kevin Feige announced plans for the first Chinese superhero film "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," starring Liu Simu and Tony Leung, at the San Diego Comic-Con on July 20. Tony Leung was given the iconic role of The Mandarin.

However, an online buzz and disputes erupted soon after the announcement. For Chinese people, Shang-Chi, although based on Bruce Lee, has problems of racism attached to it. The most horrible part being discussed is Shang-Chi's father in the first issues of the original comic books – Fu Manchu, a composite of the evil Chinese, part of the racist "Yellow Peril" stereotyping shaped by various Western cultural products for nearly a hundred years.

For many Chinese, the setting is unacceptable, while they also argue that The Mandarin is a substitute role, yet still stemming from Fu Manchu. They suggest that taking this role will ruin Tony Leung's movie career.

But Marvel supporters argue Fu Manchu has long been removed from the original comics, and the evil figure is not The Mandarin at all.

Leung has never publicly spoken on this issue.

Philip Yung, who worked with Leung in a new film, "Theory of Ambitions," told blogger "Director First" in an interview published on Monday, that he had talked with the actor about this, and stressed he did not think Leung's Marvel role would "insult China."

"I think this is not fair on Tony Leung," Yung said, "I think there's a heavy herd mentality in society, and we have to be careful. The movie has not yet come out, and you don't even know the script. Christopher Nolan's Batman is not as the character was in previous films. Things change."

He revealed that Leung had told him that he has notified Walt Disney Studios of the controversy, and it was being very careful and cautious about the issue. 

"The role will not be the China-insulting figure as people seem to think. You mean Marvel Studios don't want to be part of the Chinese market? Is that possible?" Yung asked.

The creator of Shang-Chi, Jim Starlin, said in an interview at the San Diego Comic-Con back in July that he hoped, and indeed was sure, that Fu Manchu would be omitted from the movie. He had never read any Fu Manchu books before he and collaborator Steve Englehart created Shang-Chi, but, at that time, he had gone on to use the rights and name of the character bought by the company. He later found out about the "Yellow Peril" connotations and had been hugely embarrassed and horrified.

Instead of insulting China or spreading negative Chinese stereotypes, Liu Simu also told HuffPost in an interview in July that his Shang-Chi role was an opportunity to re-introduce Asians to the world "following years of stereotypes and caricatures and tired tropes."

"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 most important annual holiday, the Spring Festival. The release date for China has not yet been announced, and it is not even known if the film will ever enter the market.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
ChinaNews App Download
Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from