The Farewell may have been snubbed by the Academy this year, but Awkwafina delivered a deeply felt dramatic performance, proving she’s much more than the comic relief in movies like Crazy Rich Asians and Jumanji: The Next Level. Her versatility reminds me of Melissa McCarthy, and not only do I firmly believe that an Oscar nomination is in her future, but she just signed on to a new movie that could very well prove to be her Can You Ever Forgive Me? when you think about it.
The working title is The Baccarat Machine, and it’s based on a true story. Awkwafina will star as Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, who is considered the most successful female gambler in modern history, and the film follows her unlikely partnership with legendary poker player Phil Ivey.
The movie is inspired by Las Vegas insider Michael Kaplan’s article “The Baccarat Machine,” published in Cigar Aficionado, which tells the true story of Kelly Sun, “a young Chinese woman who turns a painstakingly developed talent and obsession for payback into beating the system at their own game. With major casinos conspiring to bar her from their properties, Sun partners with the international “King of Poker” Phil Ivey in order to take down the system through subterfuge, ingenuity, and pure daring, resulting in one of the most ingenious legal gambling runs ever documented.”
SK Global will finance and produce The Baccarat Machine along with Jeffrey Sharp of Sharp Independent Pictures. Andy Bellin is currently writing the script, and the producers are in talks with potential directors. Additional casting will be announced soon, and I can’t wait to see who they cast as Phil Ivey.
Awkwafina “is uniquely equipped to bring Kelly to life onscreen and will infuse the role with genuine humor and humanity,” said SKG’s John Penotti, who made the Baccarat announcement with fellow CEO Charlie Corwin.
Awkwafina recently won the Golden Globe for Best Lead Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her performance in The Farewell. She currently stars in Comedy Central’s new comedy series Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, which has already been renewed for a second season. SK Global was also behind the delightful Crazy Rich Asians, so the company enjoyed a prior relationship with the actress, who is represented by UTA and Artists First.
The Farewell was one of my top five films of 2019, and I was thrilled to see it win the top prize at the Independent Spirit Awards last weekend.