‘Babylon’: Damien Chazelle Casts Li Jun Li as Anna May Wong in Period Drama!!

Margot Robbie isn’t the only actress joining the cast of Damien Chazelle‘s Babylon, as Collider has exclusively learned that Wu Assassins star Li Jun Li has been cast as screen legend Anna May Wong, who is considered Hollywood’s first Chinese American movie star.Babylon is described as a period drama about the pivotal moment in the late 1920s when Hollywood moved away from silent films and embraced “talkies” with the release of The Jazz Singer. The script features various industry figures including Hollywood’s first “It” girl Clara Bow, writer Elinor Glyn and studio boss Irving Thalberg, as well as an as-yet-uncast third lead who sources describe as an ambitious young man, born in the U.S. to Mexican immigrants, who dreams of working in the movie industry.Robbie is in talks to replace Chazelle‘s La La Land star Emma Stone as Bow, after Stone was forced to drop out of the movie due to a scheduling issue, as first reported by Deadline. Pitt will play a fictional silent film star who struggles to make the transition to talkies — which is what the first movies with synchronized dialogue were called — and according to THR, is based on real-life figure John Gilbert. If Robbie‘s deal closes, she would be reunited with Pitt following last year’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood.

As for Anna May Wong, she appeared in silent films such as The Toll of the Sea and Douglas FairbanksThe Thief of Baghdad before becoming a fashion icon and a stage star in Europe. She co-starred in several films of the early sound era in the following decade, and in 1935 she took a bold stand in the face of inequity when she turned down a role in The Good Earth after MGM refused to consider her for the lead role — a Chinese character — and instead hired a white actress to play the role under makeup. Unfortunately, that offensive practice was required at the time under the Hays Code, which dictated that the wife of a white actor in a film be played by a white actress.

Wong went on to portray Chinese and Chinese Americans in a positive light in several Paramount movies, and she eventually made history with her TV show The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, which was the first-ever U.S. television show starring an Asian American series lead according to Wikipedia.

Li is a veteran actress whose many TV credits include Damages, The Following, Minority Report, Chicago P.D., Quantico and The Exorcistin addition to Wu Assassins. She’ll soon be seen in the upcoming Netflix series Sex/Life. Li‘s feature credits have been limited thus far, so this is a major break for the actress, who is represented by the Gersh Agency, Authentic Talent and Literary Management and Jackoway Austen Tyerman.

Paramount had planned to release Babylon next year on Christmas Day, but the pandemic may have made that plan too difficult, so we’ll have to wait and see if it moves into 2022. Marc Platt is producing with Tobey Maguire and Matthew Plouffe, as well as Chazelle‘s wife, Olivia Hamilton. While we wait for Robbie‘s deal to close, click here to read about the movie she’s planning to make with Christian Bale, John David Washington and director David O. Russell.

 

via Collider

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