Malaysia-born screenwriter quits Crazy Rich Asians sequel because of pay inequality

Adele Lim's decision to walk away is possibly linked to other prestigious work she has snapped up.
Adele Lim's decision to walk away is possibly linked to other prestigious work she has snapped up.PHOTO: AFP

Crazy Rich Asians (CRA) netted US$238.5 million (S$330 million) worldwide but a Malaysian-born writer, who worked on the 2018 blockbuster, has not been able to cash in on the sequel.

Adele Lim has now quit the creative team over what she said is pay inequality, reported trade publication Hollywood Reporter.

She did not want to divulge what she was offered but sources said her starting offer was US$110,000, compared to a US$800,000 to US$1 million deal for co-writer Peter Chiarelli.

Lim, who helped to adapt Singapore-born author Kevin Kwan's book to the screen, said women and people of colour tend to be brought onto projects as "soy sauce", tasked with adding cultural texture but not with the crucial work of storytelling.

"Being evaluated that way can't help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions," she told the Hollywood Reporter.

Pundits think the studio offered Lim less because she does not have as much of a track record as Chiarelli whose credentials include 2009's The Proposal and 2016's Now You See Me 2.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Lim, who has written for TV shows such as One Tree Hill and Private Practice, turned down Chiarelli's offer to share his fee with her.

"Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn't be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer," she said.

"If I couldn't get pay equity after CRA, I can't imagine what it would be like for anyone else."

Her decision to walk away is possibly linked to other prestigious work she has snapped up.

She has tied up with Disney Animation and is working on its South-east Asian mythology-influenced feature Raya And The Last Dragon, with CRA's Awkwafina voicing a dragon.

"We've been keeping it under wraps for so long I think my family thought I was lying when I said I was working for a Disney feature animation," Lim said in August at the D23 Expo.