The never-ending Marvel train has reached its next stop in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Though the COVID-19 pandemic caused delays and reshuffling of the studio’s rollout, we eventually saw the release of Black Widow this past July and will now see the release of Director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS. The film, which will be released exclusively in theaters on September 3rd, centers around Shang-Chi (Simu Liu), a skilled martial artist who finds himself confronting the past he ran from only to become tangled up in the web of the mysterious Ten Rings organization.
Recently, Nightmarish Conjurings attended the press conference for SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS which was moderated by comedian and actor Ronny Chieng and featured Simu Liu (“Shang-Chi”), Awkwafina (“Katy”), Meng’er Zhang (“Xialing”), Sir Ben Kinsley (“Trevor Slattery”), Director Destin Daniel Cretton and Producer Kevin Feige.
During the conference, we learned about how Destin Daniel Cretton was pulled towards the character Shang-Chi, the approach in balancing Mandarin Chinese and English in the latest Marvel venture, and how Simu Liu got cast as the titular character.
Getting right into the meat of it, Ron Seoul-Oh from POC Culture asked Destin Daniel Cretton what it was about the character of Shang-Chi, and the world around him that grabbed on to the director and made him want to tell this story:
“I really personally connect with Shang-Chi’s journey,” explained Cretton. “I love that this is a superhero that doesn’t get splashed with chemicals to get his superpower. That it is a journey of self-discovery, of growing up, of learning how to finally deal with [the] pain that he’s been running away from his entire life. And that when he is finally about to look inside into his past and embrace good, bad, the joy, the pain, and accept it all as a part of himself, that’s when he finally steps into his big boy shoes. I think that’s kind of what we’re all doing as humans in some way or another. So I really connect with that.”
As for what it was like to enter into the world of the MCU, Cretton didn’t have to look far for some advice. Piggybacking off of his initial question, Ron asked Destin if his friend Ryan Coogler (Director of Black Panther) was able to help with taking the massive step into the world of Marvel.
“I did have a giant personal fear of stepping into a movie like this…[W]hen it came down to it, I did have a conversation with Ryan Coogler about being scared of stepping into a big studio movie like this and scared of what it might do to me, what if I cave under pressure? I had a lot of fears,” explained the Just Mercy director. “The thing that Ryan said to me which really eased my mind was the pressure is hard, it’ll be the hardest thing potentially that you have done up to this point, but none of those complications come from the people that you’re working with, and that’s what I found. This is a very special place to work, there’s an environment of curiosity, of exploration that comes from the top down. There is no fear-based mentality in this studio which has really allowed us to take risks and chances and be able to instill that same fearless exploration with everybody involved in this film, and I think that’s a huge reason that the movie turned out the way that it did.”
The film beautifully weaves in the use of Mandarin Chinese throughout the film. Speaking on that, Therese Lacson from The Beat asked about the process of writing those lines as well as what it was like for the cast to get to speak Mandarin in a Marvel film:
“I can talk to the conversation behind which language should be speaking. It was always rooted in just the logic of the characters and who would naturally be speaking what language,” explained Cretton. “That conversation started in the writer’s room and then once our actors came in it was always a dialog that these are all bilingual, trilingual, quadrilingual characters who could speak whatever made sense at the time. So, we were constantly having the discussion of what made sense for the scene.”
Now, we can’t talk about this movie without bringing up Simu Liu, who plays the role of Shang-Chi. Back in 2018, Liu tweeted at Marvel about the role of Shang-Chi. During the conference, Warren Thompson of Cosmic Wonder asked if that tweet caused Liu to get the role:
“I would love for Kevin to answer this because you think when you tweet at Marvel, you think it’s going to some 19-year-old intern… [that] no one’s gonna read that,” laughed Liu. “No one cares what I have to say. But maybe… they did.”
As for Kevin Feige, he wasn’t even aware that Liu’s tweet existed:
“I did not see that ,” stated Feige. “Unfortunately Simu, it was not your tweeting. It was your acting ability, your constant professionalism, and then multiple reads and meetings that you did that got you the job.”
As we all sighed in unison over the touching moment, we had no idea another sweet moment was on the horizon. Not only did Destin Daniel Cretton direct one of the best Marvel superhero movies, but he also was a childcare worker at a group home for at-risk teenagers. When asked if that experience affected the way in which he tells stories, Cretton went on to say:
“That job affected my entire life, my world view,” stated Destin. “I feel like the stories that I am drawn to are a combination of humor [and] optimism but also not shying away from the very real darkness and pain that we all experience as humans. And I think this movie really does encapsulate a lot of the things that I really believe in.”
SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS opens exclusively in theaters on September 3rd. For more on the film, check out our review here.