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5 Asian novels from the past decade adapted into Hollywood movies

Writer: Florey DM

Have you read the novels these movies are based on?
Have you read the novels these movies are based on?

Novels getting adapted into movies is no new thing, most movies are born from best-selling books after all. (Though whether all were successful in their adaptation is another story.) Today let's turn our focus specifically on books by Asian authors, which have been or will be adapted into Hollywood titles.

You'll notice "The Joy Luck Club" from Amy Tan is missing here, even though it was adapted by director Wayne Wang in 1993, since we're looking only at movies released in the past decade.

Whereas books like "The Garden of Evening Mists" (Tan Twan Eng) and "The Ghost Bride" (Yangsze Choo), though they do make Asians – specifically Malaysians – very proud, are also omitted since the former isn't technically a Hollywood production, while the latter is adapted into a Netflix series instead of feature film.

We list down below five movies adapted from Asian-authored novels, which you can either watch, re-watch or read the source materials before the silver screen adaptation comes out.

"Perfect Addition"

(Photo source: Claudia Tan | SAYS)

Back in August, Variety reported that Constantin Film, the production company behind movies such as the Milla Jovovich and Tony Jaa-starring "Monster Hunter", the "Resident Evil" franchise (Jovovich-led again) and 2019's "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" (also adapted from a book), will be turning Claudia Tan's hit novel "Perfect Addition" into a movie.

According to The New Sarawak, 22-year-old Kuching-born Tan wrote the story to channel the pain she felt when her childhood best friend hurt her. She posted the story on Wattpad, which led to her winning the People's Choice Award at the 2015 Wattys – an award for Wattpadd stories. Wattpad is a website and app for writers to publish new user-generated stories and is free for the public to read.

Actress-writer Stephanie Sanditz will pen the script based on the book, which follows Sienna Lane, a successful boxing trainer, who learns that her boxing champion boyfriend Jax has been cheating on her with her own sister. When she begins training his arch-nemesis Kayden to take him down, she unexpectedly discovers there is real chemistry between her and the brooding man.

"Dial A for Aunties"

(Photo source: Amazon.com)

Here's another upcoming movie, also from a Southeast Asian novelist. Netflix will be adapting "Dial A for Aunties" by Indonesian author Jesse Q Sutanto, which she will also be executive producing, BBC News reported.

"Crazy Rich Asians" meets "Weekend at Bernies" is how the Jakarta-based writer describes her book, which tells of a wedding photographer who struggles to hide her blind date's body after accidentally killing him during an Indonesian society wedding.

Who knows, maybe we'll get to see "Crazy Rich Asians" star Constance Wu as part of the cast. Since she was also the star of "Fresh off the Boat", the 6-season TV series created by Nahnatchka Khan, who will be helming Sutanto's movie.

"Never Let Me Go"

The oldest movie on this list, "Never Let Me Go" was released in cinemas circa late 2010-early 2011. It was adapted from the novel of the same name by Kazuo Ishiguro, a Japanese-born British novelist. The big screen adaptation directed by Mark Romanek proved to be quite as successful as the book, which won several accolades and was also named the best novel of 2005 by TIME magazine.

Even though the movie's box office performance was not strong, earning only USD9.46 million against its USD15 million budget, it was critically acclaimed and earned several nominations at awards ceremonies such as the Saturn Awards and the Hollywood Film Festival. Leads Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield won most of the awards for their performance, while co-star Keira Knightley earned a couple of Best Supporting Actress nominations.

The British dystopian romantic tragedy film follows the lives of the three main characters, Kathy (Mulligan), Ruth (Knightley) and Tommy (Garfield), from their early school days up until their young adulthood.

"First They Killed My Father"

"First They Killed My Father" gained worldwide buzz when in 2015 it was announced that Hollywood star Angelina Jolie will be helming a feature film adaptation of it for Netflix.

The 2005 novel is a memoir penned by Cambodian-born American human-rights activist Loung Ung, who wrote it based on her harrowing experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime. It was in April 1975 that Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge army captured Phnom Penh and changed Ung's life forever. After being separated from her family, she became a child soldier.

The movie was fully shot in Cambodia and Jolie cast Khmer-speaking Cambodian actors for a more authentic portrayal. It premiered in Siem Reap in February 2017, before releasing on Netflix in September that same year. Thanks to Jolie's dual citizenship with the US and Cambodia, the movie was eligible for submission as Cambodia's entry for the 90th Academy Awards' Best Foreign Language Film. Unfortunately, it did not receive a nomination. Nevertheless, this movie is still considered Jolie's best work as a director yet.

"Crazy Rich Asians"

Last but not least, we have "Crazy Rich Asians", the Jon M. Chu-directed rom-com based on Singaporean-American novelist Kevin Kwan's 2013 novel of the same name. As mentioned, Constance Wu stars in the movie, playing Rachel Chu, opposite Malaysian-British actor Henry Golding who shot to international fame with his role as the crazy rich Nick Young.

Like the book, the movie revolves around the couple. Rachel is unaware of her boyfriend's extremely privileged background until she travels with him to Singapore, where she finally learns that he comes from a high-class family and fitting in might not be a piece of cake for her, especially given the cold welcome from his mother.

Though largely set in Singapore, the movie was also shot in Malaysia. It is the first Hollywood movie since 1993's "The Joy Luck Club" to feature a majority cast of Asian descent. Among the slew of Singaporean and Malaysian stars in it are Tan Kheng Hua and Michelle Yeoh. Also part of the cast are American and English actors of Asian descent such as Awkwafina, Ken Jeong and Gemma Chan.

Cinema Online, 10 December 2020

Related Movies:
Crazy Rich Asians (31 Aug 2018)
First They Killed My Father (CIFF) (Khmer) (Not Showing)

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