“Crazy Rich Asians” screenwriter Adele Lim made her directorial debut at SXSW with the premiere of the Asian-led comedy “Joyride,” starring Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu and Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu.
Lim and her fellow “Joyride” scribes Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, a longtime writer and producer for “Family Guy,” and Teresa Hsiao, also a “Family Guy” alum and co-creator of “Nora from Queens,” spoke with NextShark the day after their SXSW premiere on Friday and chatted about the film being, among other things, an “anti-landmark” and its original title, “Joy F*ck Club.”
For Lim, Chevapravatdumrong and Hsiao, “Joyride” started with the realization that the comedic television writers could turn their crazy stories into a real script.
“It started with us sitting on a couch in each other’s houses all the time, just making each other laugh, cracking each other up and telling stories that were maybe raunchy to each other and about each other. And then thinking, Wait, are we professional writers? We should maybe try and actually write this into something” says Chevapravatdumrong.
That something became the story of four Asian American friends who go on a wild adventure in Asia as Park’s character Audrey, a high-achieving Asian adoptee, goes on a business trip that requires her to learn more about where she comes from. She is joined by her college friend-turned-Chinese soap star Kat (Hsu), her wild and flippant childhood best friend Lolo (Cola) and Lolo’s cousin Deadeye (Wu). Hijinks ensue as the four do everything from impersonating K-pop stars to encountering an American drug mule in China.
Lim and her fellow writers originally braced themselves for pushback from Lionsgate and Seth Rogen-founded production company Point Grey after first pitching their raunchy script.
“When we first had the script, we went out to producers and Lionsgate kind of signed on, and they said, let’s go crazier. Let’s do more” Hsiao says.
Lim adds, “We were 100% by the way, bracing ourselves. Cherry and Teresa just wrote it. We wanted it to have our voices in it without having a lot of outside voices weigh in on what the heart of this story was going to be.”
Having discovered a newfound love for directing, Lim expresses the importance of creative control.
I f*cking love directing, just love it. All three of us have been writers and producers. We’re used to seeing the whole process of production. But being that person on set who gets to yell “action,” I just want to encourage anybody out there who has that dream, particularly women, particularly people from underrepresented groups, to really put yourself out there, because if you don’t tell your story, somebody else is going to tell your story and you’re not gonna like it.
For Lim, the heart of the story lies in the core four characters and how each is meant to be relatable to different kinds of people.
We realized all of us are part Audrey or have part Lolo or have a part Deadeye in us. We had friends who inspired aspects of each character.
We were also interested in different Asian American experiences, just like trying to fit in where you are on that spectrum. If you’re super comfortable, if it’s not as much part of your day-to-day identity. It’s all correct. There’s no wrong to it. But it’s fun to throw all those characters in and see them mix it up.”
With an all-star women-led quartet front and center, parallels were drawn with the 1993 seminal film, “The Joy Luck Club,” based on the novel of the same name from Amy Tan. A sequel is in the works, but Lim and her fellow writers wanted to give the film a nod with their own film’s original, more explicit title, “Joy F*ck Club.”
Hsiao says she and her fellow “Joyride” writers hold “The Joy Luck Club” in esteem and consider it a cultural landmark.
We never wanted to be derogatory towards ‘The Joy Luck Club’ because we love it and revere it so much. It really was the original. I think that film came at such a time where it was on an island by itself. It was a cultural landmark.
The good thing is that after that came out 30 years ago, thanks to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once,’ we don’t need to be the only one. I don’t think we’ll ever be as huge of a cultural landmark as that film was at the time. But we would, of course, love to be iconic in a way.
Lim says it’s thanks to films like “The Joy Luck Club,” that they have the freedom to make a raunchy story like “Joyride.”
If you use it to track the API experience generationally, there are the ones who came and established, the ones who made a name for themselves. We are the third generation, the complete fuck ups, who are out here living and reveling in our messes. I’m hoping, we’re hoping for it to be a landmark, to be the anti-landmark of completely normalizing us and faces like ours in all genres of entertainment. Not having it be a special, a first and only — we just want to be amazing, to blow the roof off the place.
In our screening last night, one of the proudest moments we had was old white guys weeping at certain moments, because they were identifying with being a young Asian woman. That’s what we’re striving for.