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Henry Golding Talks ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and Asian Casting Controversies

Soccer superstar David Beckham was the big name attraction at the Singapore International Film Festival’s benefit dinner on Saturday. But Singapore-based rising star Henry Golding was equally popular with the teeming crowds at the plush Marina Bay Sands hotel.

Golding plays Nick Young, one of the leads of Jon M. Chu’s “Crazy Rich Asians,” based on Kevin Kwan’s hugely popular novel. “I only started reading the book towards the latter part of last year, just before Jon reached out, so it was super coincidental,” Golding told Variety. “I had read the book and knew what was going on, but it was still a ridiculous surprise at being reached out to.”

Golding is of mixed British-Malaysian heritage and a section of the book’s fans took umbrage at his casting, arguing that he wasn’t Asian enough. “Everybody has their own opinion, but John [Penotti], Warner Bros., and producer Nina Jacobson chose the actor they thought could portray Nick Young best,” says Golding.

“There are many arguments, for and against. Am I Asian enough? I was born here, I have lived 17 years of my life here, so for me, I feel more Asian than anything. I was proud to be able to represent Asia. There are some sour people out there, but we should be getting together and fighting for something bigger, rather than Asians against Asians.”

Large swathes of the book are set in Singapore and the city-state is itself an important character. “Singapore is one of the greatest places in the world,” says Golding. “I’ve lived here for a good 6-7 years and I will continue to live here. This is going to be home for a long time. In ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ Singapore will be seen as it should be seen, without CGI, without the altering of the images to be more Chinese — a representation of Singapore as we know it and love it.”

“Crazy Rich Asians” is due an August 2018 release.

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