Scoring cinematic success with a $430 million worldwide box office, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings became the biggest film in the United States during the pandemic and even surpassed Black Widow, another Marvel film released during the same period. Perhaps because he was the face of the first Asian marvel superhero film, lead actor Simu Liu (劉思慕) had also received his share of criticism from Asian audiences for “not being tall and handsome enough.”
The Everyman Superhero
Smiling, Simu responded, “I don’t consider myself to be particularly good-looking,” and went on to explain that Shang-Chi intentionally crafted its protagonist to be a real, flawed and nuanced person, so that kids and indeed, viewers of any age watching the film could relate. The actor added that it was particularly meaningful for Asian kids who grow up watching Marvel films to see someone like themselves reflected as superheroes onscreen, as it encourages and empowers them with the notion that they could be anything and anyone, without having to be the “tallest, best-looking or best at martial arts.”
Struggled with Cultural Identity Issues Growing Up
Growing up in an immigrant family in Canada, Simu confided that he felt constantly “off-balance” while trying to fit in both Eastern and Western cultures, feeling “at home in neither” during his growing-up years. His parents, who were on scholarships, left him in the care of his grandparents in Harbin soon after he was born, and only brought him to Canada when he was five. Speaking excitedly, the actor expressed his delight and gratefulness at being able to tell the immigrant story on the big screen.
Adding that Shang-Chi’s box office success marks a watershed moment, Simu said this was significant as it showed investors and the industry that diversity is not merely the right thing to do, but could also make much dollars and sense. Every superhero film has a core message and Shang Chi is no different. At its heart was the message that all of us are not as different from each other as we might think – a powerful message in a world of seeming contrasts and conflicts.
Family’s Initial Disapproval of His Career Choice
Asked about how his own relationship with his parents, Simu described it as “loving,” “warm” and yet “frustrating,” as both wanted to give their only son the best care, but are not ready for the “role reversal” in letting him take care of them financially now. Like typical Asian parents, they were initially unsupportive of his decision to switch from a promising career in finance and accounting to one as insecure as acting. His career success is therefore his best answer to them. Now, they are finally starting to see their son’s efforts and passion in his chosen career path, as both sides grow and gain a better understanding of each other.
Watch the full interview: