Gemma Chan on Capturing the First Chinese-American Hollywood Star’s ‘Complex Wife’

75th Cannes Film Festival

Gemma Chan hopes the upcoming biopic about Anna May Wong, considered Hollywood’s first Chinese-American actress, will capture the “complex woman she was.”

The Eternals actress, 39, will produce the film and play the late Wong in the new project.

Wong’s career spanned film, television, stage and radio and played roles alongside Marlene Dietrich until her death in 1961.

The portraits of Cecil Beaton will be exhibited
Anna May Wong’s career has spanned film, television, stage and radio (Cecil Beaton/Sotheby’s/PA)

Chan, who stars on the September cover of Harper’s Bazaar UK, spoke to the magazine about Wong’s resilience in the industry despite prejudice.

She said: “His struggles and triumphs reflect the conversations we still have now.

“She was considered the perpetual foreigner, even though she was third-generation American.

“The only thing I will say about her is that she was never a victim.

“She was incredibly witty, a fighter and had a zest for life. I hope our film captures the complex woman she was.

Chan, who has starred in a number of blockbusters including 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians and 2021’s Eternals, believes the power structures within the industry that limited Wong are still present today.

Gemma Chan (Josh Shinner/Harper’s Bazaar UK/PA)

She said, “It’s really hard in my industry to speak up, with the power structures that are there.

“I know you can be penalized in a way that means your livelihood is gone.

“Even if you try to do the right thing, by calling out bad behavior, all it takes is for someone to interpret what you’re saying the wrong way, or decide you’re a problem. …

“It’s kind of a hierarchical, word-of-mouth industry where, traditionally, bad behavior has been tolerated.

“There is a lot of fear. It is difficult to change this culture. It takes years.

The actress will also star opposite Harry Styles and Florence Pugh in the upcoming psychological thriller Don’t Worry Darling.

The September issue of Harper’s Bazaar UK goes on sale July 28.

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