"Crazy Rich Asians" director says film is the "beginning of a journey"

Last Updated Aug 15, 2018 3:46 PM EDT

The romantic comedy "Crazy Rich Asians" opens today amid lots of buzz about its potential to shatter stereotypes. It's predicted to have a crazy box office weekend, with estimates it could rake in more than $25 million. But there's a lot more riding on it than ticket sales for the all-Asian cast.

In a better world, we wouldn't be talking about the ethnicity of the cast in "Crazy Rich Asians." We'd be talking about whether or not they give a good performance.

Overall, most critics agree they do, reports "CBS Sunday Morning's" Lee Cowan. 

But it's the cast that's still drawing headlines – and for director Jon M. Chu, that's just fine – for now. 

Warner Bros. Pictures' "Crazy Rich Asians" Premiere - Red Carpet

(L-R back) Harry Golding, Sonoya Mizuno, Gemma Chan, Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina, Constance Wu, Chris Pang, Nico Santos, Ronny Chieng, Kevin Kwan, (L-R front) Jimmy O. Yang, Kevin Tsujihara, Jon M. Chu, and Ken Jeong arrive at Warner Bros. Pictures' "Crazy Rich Asians" Premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX on August 7, 2018 in Hollywood, California.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images
ctm-0815-jon-m-chu-crazy-rich-asians-director.jpg

Jon M. Chu, director of "Crazy Rich Asians"

CBS News

"I hope that in 10 years, we look back at this moment and we forget about it. We're like, that was a thing? An all-Asian cast was a thing?" Chu said.

It is a thing, given that this is the first studio film since "The Joy Luck Club" way back in 1993 to feature an Asian-American ensemble.

When Chu, a veteran of Hollywood, set out to bring Kevin Kwan's popular novel to life, he knew it would be a watershed moment, but he had no idea just how much it would affect him personally.
 
"It's the most present movie I've ever made," Chu said. "Going through this cultural identity crisis at the same time of making it. … I cry every four hours thinking about it because you feel that your movie is more than just for yourself at that point."

Chu, an Asian-American whose parents owned a Chinese restaurant, loved movies as kid, but he rarely saw anyone who looked or sounded like him on the big screen. Chu realized as a director, he wasn't casting Asians either and was part of the problem.

"I think for myself as an artist, I wanted to know that I was an artist. Like, do I have the courage to push something through this system that I now have known so well for the last 10 years. So that desire grew too much for me to hold inside and it was time," Chu said.

For Rebecca Sun, a senior reporter at the Hollywood Reporter, movies are her life – and yet this one felt decidedly different. 

"To see one about a Chinese-American girl like myself who looks and dresses like me was – it was incredible," Sun said. "It felt really, really validating, and it felt like recognition."

The stakes for tonight's opening are high – and so are the expectations – maybe impossibly high.

"Do you think it's a Black Panther kind of moment in film?" Cowan asked.

"I mean it's tricky because it's hard to compare anything to Black Panther. It's an amazing piece of work that has changed the landscape," Chu said, adding, "We are on the beginning of a journey and I think this cracks the door."

"You'd be happy if it just does that?"

"I'd be happy if people go to the movie and have a great time. You can't take back what you see," Chu said.

And what you see is a romantic comedy about a boy and girl, and the complexity of family, that could be almost anyone, almost anywhere – and that's the point.