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How Simu Liu's Failed Crazy Rich Asians Audition Affected His Career

Simu Liu is among the ranks of Marvel's collected superstars today, but like most artists, his career has had ups and downs, and his path to leading man status was a long and arduous one. Liu's career catapulted him to stardom when he got a signature role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, portraying Shang-Chi in 2021's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Even amid theater closures around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Marvel release managed to bring in over $430 million at the worldwide box office (per Box Office Mojo).

It's a massive role not only for the fact that it exists in the pantheon of seemingly unstoppable Marvel movies but also because Shang-Chi is Marvel's first Asian superhero (via LA Times). Bringing the character to the big screen for the first time likely put plenty of pressure on Liu, but it sounds like he was primed for the task thanks to the thick skin and fortitude he had to grow after one big acting misstep.

Before his role as Shang-Chi came along, Liu was almost part of another massive film, one that likely could have led him down a very different path. According to comments by Liu, he owes his success today to a failed audition that, in the words of John Mayer, had the actor "dreaming with a broken heart."  

Crazy Rich Asians showed Simu Liu he was too eager

Simu Liu recalls that he auditioned for "Crazy Rich Asians" director Jon M. Chu four times but was ultimately told no (via "How to Fail with Emily Day" podcast). 

According to Liu, he got the feedback that he didn't get the part because decision-makers didn't think he had that mysterious "it factor" a leading man needs. He said the words were a major hit to his self-confidence as a performer, feeling he may be stuck with supporting roles the rest of his career, despite his leading man ambitions.

"I didn't have that thing that made people want to watch it. It was at a time that was very difficult for me. I was trying to figure out whether I could be the lead character or whether I could only be a supporting character for my entire career," the actor said. 

He added that he was letting his desperation bleed into what he was showing filmmakers. "It forced me to take a step back and realize that maybe I wanted it too badly. Like, maybe I was too desperate and that desperation was showing in my work," he said. 

Liu was heartbroken at not getting the 2018 box office smash hit that was "Crazy Rich Asians," but he took the failure as a learning opportunity and changed how he tackled auditions, showing more confidence and eventually impressing Marvel enough to land the role of Shang-Chi.

Could Simu Liu end up in Crazy Rich Asians 2?

Simu Liu didn't make it into "Crazy Rich Asians," but that did not stop him from promoting the movie, even helping to sell out a screening with his "Kim's Convenience" co-star Andrew Phung. Clearly, there are no hard feelings. In fact, Liu has even been hinting he'd like a role in a proposed sequel to the hit movie. 

According to Liu, there is even a specific part he wants to play. Presuming a "Crazy Rich Asians 2" happens, the Shang-Chi actor says he would like to play the character of Carlton, the half-brother of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who originates from the novel "China Rich Girlfriend" by Kevin Kwan. 

"I think the guy's name is Carlton? I don't know too much about him other than the fact that he's crazy and he's rich and he's Rachel's half-brother. I look forward to reading the sequels — because I've only read the first book — and learning more about this character because I wouldn't say no!" the actor said when asked about potentially being involved in a sequel (per NBC News).

Considering the success Liu has had since his multiple failed auditions for "Crazy Rich Asians," his casting in a sequel seems like a no-brainer. A sequel to the hit movie seems like a no-brainer too, and the franchise is chugging along, with a spin-off movie in the works on top of the potential sequel.