China’s internet is thrilled by news that Marvel appears to be insisting on casting an ethnic Chinese actor as Shang-Chi in the master of kung fu’s own spinoff film and has begun scouting out candidates for the role.
Variety reporter Justin Kroll tweeted Sunday that Marvel is apparently “putting out test offers for a group of men in their 20s” for its “Shang-Chi” movie. He added that the studio has “been adamant to reps offering up their clients for the role” that candidates “have to be of Chinese ancestry,” with no other Asian ancestry accepted.
Twitter is blocked on China’s highly censored internet, but that hasn’t stopped the tweet from going viral in the mainland. Users have screen-grabbed it and spread it on China’s parallel Weibo platform, where the hashtag “Shang-Chi casting” has since been viewed 100 million times, and the hashtag “Marvel’s first Chinese hero” has been viewed 590 million times, as well as picked up by all the major entertainment media outlets.
“First we got China’s first Disney princess, and then we got China’s first Marvel hero!” one publication declared excitedly, referring to Disney’s “Mulan,” whose title character is played by Chinese-born actress Liu Yifei. Last week, the first trailer and poster for the film caused a sensation on the Chinese internet, with some users saying they even shed tears of excitement.
Most of the online chatter about Shang-Chi at present is about whom users would love to see in the role. Age notwithstanding, some of the more popular names bandied about have been Eddie Peng (“Operation Mekong”), Zhang Jin (“Ip Man 3”, Wong Kar-Wai’s “The Grandmaster”), Wu Jing (“Wolf Warrior 2”), Huang Jingyu (“Operation Red Sea”), Ashton Chen Xiaolong (“Ip Man 2”), Li Xian (“The Founding of an Army”), rapper Jackson Wang, Leo Wu Lei (TV series “Nirvana in Fire”), and Liu Haoran (“Detective Chinatown 2”). Peng, who is starring in the upcoming big-budget Dante Lam blockbuster “Rescue,” is a clear favorite.
China is a critical market for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has an enormous, vocal fan base in the world’s second-largest film market. In April, “Avengers: Endgame” broke dozens of box office records in the mainland to earn a massive $614 million, becoming the country’s third-highest-grossing film of all time. “Spider-Man: Far From Home” has grossed $166 million so far in Chinese theaters, while “Captain Marvel” brought in $154 million in March.