Lulu Wang is “f**king exhausted” after American director named to helm Lang Lang biopic

Society & Culture

At a time when Hollywood’s diversity problem has gained wider attention, the announcement of Lang Lang’s biopic swiftly sparked some grumbling on Twitter. Why is Ron Howard, with no obvious ties to Chinese culture, directing the movie?

Lang Lang

With Asian creatives being still sorely underrepresented in front of and behind the camera in American entertainment, the Hollywood Reporter revealed on Tuesday that Ron Howard had agreed to direct an upcoming, as-yet-untitled biopic about renowned Chinese classical pianist Láng Lǎng 郎朗.

Based on Lang’s memoir Journey of a Thousand Miles, the movie is supposed to tell the story of how the 38-year-old musician paved his own path to international acclaim as a Chinese artist born and growing up in Shenyang, Liaoning Province.

Given that Lang’s work as a musician is heavily influenced by his Chinese roots, one would assume that the project would feature prominent involvement from creatives with a depth of knowledge about Chinese culture and the country’s classical music scene. But instead, AGC Studios, which will fully finance the movie, opted to tap Ron Howard, a white filmmaker whose most iconic work includes the Oscar-winning films A Beautiful Mind and Frost/Nixon, to direct the movie.

Howard, alongside Brian Grazer, will also take the helm on the production side of the biopic, with Lang being one of the executive producers. Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney will adapt the memoir for the screen.

Unsurprisingly, in a time when Hollywood’s diversity problem has gained wider attention, the announcement of Lang’s biopic swiftly sparked some grumbling on Twitter that wondered aloud why Howard, with no obvious ties to Chinese culture, for that matter, should be directing the movie.

One of the most vocal critics is Chinese American writer-director Lulu Wang, who won the Independent Spirit Award for her film The Farewell. While noting that she is also “a classically-trained pianist born in China,” Wang tweeted that she had doubts about whether Howard had the cultural knowledge and experience needed to tell Lang’s story correctly.

“As a classically-trained pianist born in China, I believe it’s impossible to tell Lang Lang’s story without an intimate understanding of Chinese culture + the impact of the Cultural Revolution on artists & intellectuals + the effects of Western imperialism,” Wang commented. “Just saying.”

In a follow-up tweet, Wang clarified that she had no interest in directing the movie but she felt “fucking exhausted” by the continued lack of Asian representation in Hollywood.

Wang also compared the situation to Disney’s recently released live-action remake of Mulan, which has attracted a fair amount of criticism for having a production team that was almost entirely white.

“Have we learned NOTHING from Mulan? I haven’t said anything because yes representation and many people I love are involved, but I just have to. Just HAVE to,” Wang wrote.

Lang Lang himself, however, appears to be perfectly fine with being the star of a movie predominantly produced by white males. When talking to the Hollywood Reporter about the biopic, he expressed appreciation for Howard’s involvement. “Dream big, work hard, and always believe in yourself. This movie, thanks to Ron Howard’s vision, will inspire young people around the world to follow their dreams and never forget they are one in a million,” he said.