Could Miss Saigon Be the Next Big Hollywood Movie with a Large Asian Cast?

  • May 8, 2018

As the release date of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians approaches fast (August 17), the anticipation is high. Not only is it a movie version of a highly regarded best-selling novel, but it is also a landmark film, featuring the largest Asian cast in mainstream American cinema since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. With the film expecting to do well at the office, we’re hoping that producers take notice that the Asian market of filmgoers actually plays a huge role in the game. We’re also here to speculate on what may be the next big project with an large Asian cast to come out of the Hollywood dream factory. All signs are pointing to one thing: the famous Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil musical Miss Saigon.

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Lea Salonga starred in the famous musical's original production, making her a household name
Lea Salonga starred in the famous musical’s original production, making her a household name

Premiering at the Theater Royal in London on September 1989, the production made a successful Broadway transition by 1991. Then-newcomer Lea Salonga even won a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her layered performance as Kim. Afterwards, the show reached iconic status. Today, it is still one of the most successful productions in theater history, spawning multiple tours and revivals around the world the last quarter of a century. The most notable being 2016’s filmed 25th Anniversary performance starring Eva Noblezada as Kim, Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer, Alistair Brammer as Chris, and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi. The film reinvigorated a love for the musical, presenting it to a new generation of fans.

Since it first premiered on the Broadway stage, rumors of a film adaptation had surrounded the production. Originally, Lea Salonga was to reprise her iconic role, but the project never left development. By 2009, a newer version was reported to be in development by producer Paula Wagner and Cameron Mackintosh (the original musical’s producer). Reports even went as far as saying that locations were being looked at in Saigon and Cambodia. That, too, never materialized. When Schönberg-Boublil Les Miserables became a hit film in 2012 (winning awards prestige, including an Oscar for Anne Hathaway in Best Supporting Actress), Mackintosh announced he was back trying to get Miss Saigon off the ground again.

Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris in the 2016 televised production
Eva Noblezada as Kim and Alistair Brammer as Chris in the 2016 televised production

6 years later, we are still without a film. However, after the London Revival closed in February 2016, Mackintosh updated the world with a small tease, stating, “Sooner rather than later, the movie won’t just be in my mind.” The following month, Danny Boyle, the filmmaker behind the Best Picture-winning Slumdog Millionaire was announced as the new director of the upcoming project. Yet has been announced about anything else than that. Will Saigon finally move forward or will it once again be left in development hell?

Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer
Jon Jon Briones as the Engineer

We hope that with the success of Crazy Rich Asians, Miss Saigon’s production will finally go into full swing. It is an important story, one which focuses on heartbreak, desperation, and trauma, all in the backdrop of the horrors of the Vietnam War. With subject matter so dark and marvelous on paper, the adaption (if it’s any good) will surely go on to be an Oscar juggernaut. The leading roles of Kim and The Engineer will be sought-after by any Asian character who can carry a tune. Although we’d be completely fine with Noblezada reprising her role, we’d love to see a fresh, new face to bring Kim to life on the big sreen. As for The Egineer, we’re hoping for Jon Jon Briones, who is always fantastic. He owned the role back in the 25th Anniversary Performance. We think it could earn him an Oscar nomination! Here’s to hoping!

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