Director Jon M. Chu said while sequels to the hit romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” are in the works, he and producers are not currently casting for “new lead roles,” as falsely indicated by a phony press release and social media post, which have since been taken down.
Chu took to his Twitter account on Wednesday to express his dismay and disgust after a user named Alan Baltes — claiming to be an actor and casting associate — posted a notice saying that the supposed “Crazy Rich Asians” sequels, “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems,” were casting Asian actors, ages 20s through 40s, for lead roles via “live Zoom auditions.” There was also a part listed for a Caucasian female between ages 25-35.
The post asked that talent who wanted to be considered pay Baltes a $99 “submission fee” via Google Pay or Venmo.
“I kept reading it, and when it said ‘99 dollars,’ I was like, ‘This is f—ed up,’” Chu told Variety. “There’s so many scams like that in L.A. anyway and to actually target, specifically, Asian actors, was very frustrating.”
Chu said he was first alerted about the notice when he was tagged in a tweet, after which he notified Twitter and flagged Warner Bros.’ legal department. After posting his own reaction, Chu said he was promptly blocked by Baltes on Twitter. Baltes’ account has since been deactivated, as has a link to the original press release, of which Variety obtained a text copy.
The “In the Heights” director called the scam a “direct attack,” as Asian American actors have only lately begun to see opportunities expanded for them on screen.
“Asian American actors finally get the opportunity or the hope that there are roles and parts out there. People have this light inside of them to pursue this dream that they never thought was possible before, and to take advantage of that and know that you can take $99 for a fake audition is just disgusting,” said Chu.
It also comes at a time when Asian communities around the world are vulnerable to racist attacks for misguided associations with the coronavirus pandemic.
“To put on top of that this time, when we’re being othered and we’re being attacked on the streets, is even more disgusting,” Chu added.
Baltes, who has also called himself a talent agent, responded via email to Variety’s request for comment, saying “someone sent me the information and was misrepresenting himself as being with casting. The person is no longer in contact with me after I inquired further. They were attempting to get me to send them money for casting calls.”
Baltes added that no money had been paid and when asked who had supplied him with “false information,” said, “I no longer have the information as it was on my Twitter and my account was deleted.”
It appears that this is not the first time Baltes has solicited money for “submitting” talent for auditions in big movies. In 2018, Twitter users flagged their concerns to director Colin Trevorrow over a similar casting notice for “Jurassic World: Dominion,” where Baltes asked for a $99 audition fee.
Trevorrow tweeted in response, saying “anyone who requests money for an audition isn’t on the level.”
As for “Crazy Rich Asians,” Chu said that while an open casting call might be a possibility for the sequels (as he has done for his previous films), no location scouting has been conducted nor any pre-production.
“We’re so far from it. We don’t have a casting director. We have never said, ‘Hey, let’s look at people who are out there.’ We’ve done zero,” he said. “We don’t even have a script.”
Representatives for SAG-AFTRA and Warner Bros. did not reply to Variety’s request for comment at the time of publication.
Manori Ravindran contributed to this report.