The Crazy Rich Interiors in Crazy Rich Asians
Here's everything you need to know about the lavish sets seen in the latest hit movie Crazy Rich Asians
The highly-anticipated movie adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel, Crazy Rich Asians, is hitting Philippine theaters today, and already it has been making a lot of buzz online, not just for its impressive cast and cultural impact, but also for its crazy rich production.
The film, directed by Jon M. Chu, follows Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu), a native New Yorker, who accompanies her boyfriend Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) to his native Singapore for the summer, where they will attend his best friend’s wedding. Rachel quickly learns that Nick actually belongs to one of the country’s wealthiest families, and that there are many people trying to destroy their relationship—one of whom is Nick’s mother, Eleanor Young (played by Michelle Yeoh). Throughout the film, Rachel navigates Nick’s world of extravagance and opulence, and struggles to not only save her relationship with Nick but also stay true to herself.
Even before its release in the U.S., the film has been a hot topic all over the world. It is not only the film’s important impact on the issue of the representation of Asians in Hollywood that people have been noticing; many have also been noting the lavish costume and production design of the film.
Here, the director and the movie's production designer John Coates shares how they created the stunning visuals in the film.
Interiors with a unique visual blend of culture and tradition
From the outset, it was clear to the filmmakers that the movie absolutely needed to be shot in Singapore. Producer Brad Simpson claims that this factor was “non-negotiable”—a sentiment echoed by the director, Jon M. Chu. “The texture of our movie, its escapism, comes from the fact that we really shot in these places,” Chu shares. “Everywhere we pointed the camera, we found something special. It’s a unique blend of cultures.”
There is perhaps no set which exhibits this “unique blend of cultures” more than the set created by production designer Nelson Coates and his team to serve as the fictional Young family’s ancestral estate. The team utilized Singapore’s Tyersall Park, a historical estate located near the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Specifically, two other mansions located in Kuala Lumpur, collectively known as Carcosa Sera Negara, were transformed into the magnificent mansion.
To create a design that would exude that sense of rich history, Coates researched on Peranakan culture. According to Traveller.com.au, the Peranakans are people who descended from marriages between Chinese or Indian men and local Malay or Indonesian women from the Malay archipelago. Peranakan culture is a hybrid of these cultures combined with colonial Portuguese, Dutch, and Indonesian influences. As a result of these unique cultural fusions, the design created by Coates comprised of floral or animal ornamentations, louvered shuttering, and glazed ceramic tiles, among others. The team made major repairs to the floors, stairs, walls, and roofs of the mansions. The Seri Negara, which was used for its exteriors, underwent landscaping and repainting, into the Singaporean style of white walls and intricate detailing.
The other mansion, Carcosa, also underwent major transformations, specifically in its interiors. Going with the concept of “old-school grandeur,” Coates shares. “We wanted the interiors to feel regal, with a restrained beauty and formality. There’s symmetry to the furniture, as in many Peranakan homes, but it’s a home that’s been lived in and seen lots of children come and go. Jon was very keen for the house to be accessible, so the palette and the way the rooms flow into each other was important.” To achieve this effect, Coates’s team used huge archways, and augmented everything with moldings, wallpapers, paint, glazing, and gliding. And as we can see, the result was incredible.
The painstaking attention to detail and authenticity is evident in every room of the Young estate. The dining room features a hand-painted mural depicting Singaporean life in muted hues against a teal background. The entrance hall features a green staircase and is decorated with a Morris-style wallpaper and a life-size tiger designed by Coates himself. Family heirlooms, Peranakan furniture, hand-blown glass and artworks are interspersed throughout the space. Even the conservatory owned by the matriarch of the Young family, Ah Ma (played by Lisa Lu), is just as opulent: a breathtaking blend of Chinese and colonial design, the conservatory features, among others, carved louvered doors, decorative walls, and floors laid with Peranakan-style tiles.
“A wedding like you’ve never seen before”
But aside from the luxurious Young family estate, the film showcases another visual masterpiece: the wedding of Nick’s best friend. Shot in CHIJMES, a historic building complex containing restaurants and bars, the $40 million wedding scene is dubbed the real showpiece of the movie, and it is not difficult to see why. The aisle is lined with swaying green fronds and multi-colored orchids and bromeliads, leading to a stone Chinese Moon Gate (below). The wedding guests are seated on velvet couches set in a meadow of three-foot-tall grasses. Indeed, in the words of director Jon Chu: “This had to be a wedding like you’ve never seen before.”
Coates also talks about the other elements present in the wedding. “It’s an explosion of nature you wouldn’t expect in a church,” he shares. “We wanted it to be subtle and have a touch of classicism, so there are 8-foot bamboo fans with the classic wedding imagery of the phoenix and dragon, and traditional hand-painted lanterns with the bride’s and groom’s names and scenes of prosperity and fertility—each painted by a master who took three weeks for each lantern.”
Crazy Rich Asians opens in Philippine cinemas August 22.
More on Realliving.com.ph