Some of the Singaporean actors from the hit movie Crazy Rich Asians say the news about author Kevin Kwan defaulting on his national service shouldn't affect the way the film is perceived here.
It emerged on Wednesday (Aug 22) that Kwan - author of the best-selling novel on which the film is based - failed to "register for national service (NS) in 1990, despite notices and letters sent to his overseas address", according to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).
“Mr Kwan has committed offences under the Enlistment Act, and is liable to a fine of up to S$10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years upon conviction,” said MINDEF.
The news caused a stir online, with many comments on social media, and some Singaporean cast members of the film spoke up about how this could affect the local audience.
Both Janice Koh, who plays Felicity Young in the movie, and Koh Chieng Mun, who plays Neena Goh, told Channel NewsAsia that this is “a private matter" between Kwan and MINDEF.
“It does not in any way detract from the quality of his book or the movie based on it, which is delighting readers and audiences all over the world,” added Janice Koh.
Tan Kheng Hua, who plays Kerry Chu, the mother of protagonist Rachel Chu, agreed.
“Good common sense tells you Kevin Kwan’s gloriously affecting novels and the delightful movie adaptation of it currently connecting people all over the world with joy and positive messages of inclusivity and diversity, and MINDEF, are two completely separate things and should be treated as such,” she said.
For Koh Chieng Mun, the news does not undermine the quality of the best-selling book and critically acclaimed film.
“(Look) how it has been a source of joy and enjoyment to audiences in the United States,” she said. “And now in Asia.”
Actress Amy J. Cheng, who plays Jacqueline Ling in the film, says that ultimately, all that matters is an audience making “a strong connection with a solid piece of work”.
“Crazy Rich Asians is currently the No. 1 box office movie in the US. The books have been on The Straits Times best seller list for the past 50 weeks,” she said. “The audience has spoken.”
Kwan's debut novel about the lives of extremely wealthy Chinese families living in Singapore became an instant global bestseller back in 2013.
The film adaptation, helmed by Asian-American Jon M. Chu with Kwan on board as executive producer, soared to the top of the US box office when it earned US$35 million (S$47.9 million) in its opening five days.
Crazy Rich Asians - the first big, contemporary studio film featuring an all-Asian cast in over 25 years since The Joy Luck Club - has been hailed in Hollywood as a breakthrough for racial representation. The cast boasts Asian actors from all over the world, including Michelle Yeoh, Henry Golding, Constance Wu, Gemma Chan and Ken Jeong.
Supported by the Singapore Tourism Board and the Singapore Film Commission, the movie was largely filmed in Singapore and included nearly 300 film crew members who are Singaporean or Singapore permanent residents.
Kwan reportedly grew up in a multi-generational house in Bukit Timah and attended Anglo Chinese School (Primary) until he was 11, before emigrating to Houston, Texas with his parents and two older brothers. He is now an American citizen, according to the reports.
He told Channel NewsAsia in a previous interview that while making Crazy Rich Asians, he was “very conscious of trying to showcase Singapore in as positive a light as possible".
“I really hope Singaporeans will see that this is a love letter to Singapore,” he said. “I wrote what I knew… and I wanted to pay tribute to all types of Singaporeans.”