Director Jon M. Chu revealed that Michelle Yeoh was dissatisfied with the mock-up ring that her character, Eleanor, was going to wear. She showed him a ring from her personal collection and this eventually became the emerald and diamond ring Eleanor wears in the movie.
Netflix wanted to produce the film and offered a much bigger budget, but Kevin Kwan deliberately turned down the offer in favor of a modest $30-million budget from Warner Bros. This was done to send a message that Asian-American studio movies are commercially viable.
Awkwafina was supposed to wear several different wigs throughout the movie; however, after putting on the blonde wig, it was decided to scrap other wigs and just keep the one. The joke about this was kept in the scene where actor Ken Jeong starts calling her "Asian Ellen [Degeneres]".
This is Henry Golding's first movie; he was only a travel show host before this, but was introduced to the project after a producer met a studio accountant in Singapore, who suggested his name. However, Henry turned down to audition for the role several times as he did not think he was good enough for the part and believed a "legitimate" actor would be better suited. It was not until the director, Jon Chu, reached out to him via a mutual Facebook friend that he was finally convinced to do the part.
The tiger in the foyer of Tyersall Park (where Nick and Astrid would hide their cigarettes) was an interesting movie prop. Per the Hollywood Reporter, "The mansion's taxidermied tiger was problematic. The best specimen was in London, and the production designer realized he'd have trouble getting it across international borders. Instead, he hired sculptors in Thailand, to create a tiger out of foam and fur, only to have it held up in Thai customs because agents thought it was the real thing. 'We finally got it installed the night before we filmed the scene,' he says."
Tyersall Park, Nick's grandmother's home, is actually in Kuala Lumpur. Per The Hollywood Reporter: "Tyersall Park, the mansion of the Young family matriarch, was created out of two abandoned Malaysian government-owned buildings in Kuala Lumpur. The jungle had started to take over, floors had collapsed, there was monkey poop and bat populations," says production designer Nelson Coates, who stripped out carpeting, stenciled the floors to look like expensive tile, and found a local muralist to create leafy graphics for the walls.
Kris Aquino, who plays the princess that Rachel sits with at the wedding, is actually the daughter of former Philippine President Cory Aquino (1986- 1992) and senator Benigno Aquino Jr. She is, also, the sister of former President Benigno Aquino III (2010- 2016).
Early in the film, when Rachel is finding an outfit with her mother in which to meet Nick's family; she picks out a blue and white striped dress and her mother tells her blue and white are the colors of mourning. She then gives her a red dress to wear. Later in the film, three main characters end up wearing blue and white: Nick (changing to a blue shirt with a white jacket at the house), Astrid (wearing a blue and white striped shirt) and Rachel (wearing a white top with blue shorts, when she and Astrid were burying the fish). No other cast wore such combination.
Once the word got out that the film was being made, luxury designers such as Ralph Lauren, Elie Saab, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Dior, and many others "clamored" for the stars to wear their clothes. Michelle Yeoh loaned "hefty" jewelry pieces from her own personal collection for the film.
Jon M. Chu personally wrote the members of Coldplay for permission to use a cover of 'Yellow'. Aside from yellow's obvious connotation as an epithet, the band was also reluctant to be associated with the film because of the accusations of cultural appropriation surrounding their song 'Princess of China'. However, Chu won them over after explaining his personal fondness of the song and his desire to "reclaim" the word from its usage as a racial slur.
Although the film received praise in the United States for its casting, which made "history for Asian American representation", it was criticized elsewhere for not exclusively using actors of Chinese descent in ethnically Chinese roles. This film was also criticized for using British and American English over Singaporean English. In addition, the film received criticism for poorly representing the actual makeup of Singapore, virtually erasing non-Chinese citizens.
The German subsidiary of Warner Bros. was criticized (for example by newspapers "Die Zeit" and "Stern") for the way the film was distributed. Some examples included removing the word "Asians" from the title, modifying the film poster to a more generic, non-asian design and having almost no trailers or TV spots running. In large cities like Berlin, Munich and Cologne only few cinemas showed this film.
Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT the "first" Western-produced major studio film with an extensive East Asian cast since Joy Luck Club (1993). Other major studio backed, North American releases featuring an extensive East Asian cast as leads include: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) released just two years earlier. Revenge of the Green Dragons (2014), A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas (2011), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), Better Luck Tomorrow (2002), Rumble in the Bronx (1995) and Joy Luck Club (1993) to name a few. Even Mulan (1998) was significant. (This misnomer also neglects to recognize movies and animation extensively featuring Pacific Islanders and East Indians produced in America by major film studios such as Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, Moana, and excluding The Last Samurai (2003), which featured a majority East Asian cast but with a white man's fantasy lead.) It also fails to note relevant cinema produced overseas that feature Asians in America such as Ang Lee's Wedding Banquet (1993) and many others. Truer portrayals of actual real live Asian Americans, who are more remarkable than typical, can also be found in recent non-fictional documentaries such as Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2016), Tyrus (2015), Linsanity (2013), and many more.
Kevin Kwan, the author of the book on which the movie is based, has been charged with draft dodging in his native Singapore. He is liable to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years upon conviction. Mr. Kwan has committed offenses under the Enlistment Act, a mandatory enlistment for all persons 16.5 years old and served at around 18 years of age for two years; he and his family have resided in the United States since 1990. Despite government notices and letters sent to his overseas address, he has also stayed overseas without a valid exit permit. In 1994, his application and subsequent appeal to renounce his Singapore citizenship, without serving NS, were rejected.
In the novels, Eleanor Young is friends with Carol Tai, who married Dato Tai Toh Lui (which means "too much money" in Cantonese). In real life, Michelle Yeoh (Eleanor) was given the title of "Dato" (similar to the term meaning British knighthood) by the Sultan of Perak.
Araminta's gold bachelorette bodysuit and the wedding dress is custom designed by Mary Vog, the "disco Cleopatra" halter dress Rachel wore by Missoni; and her blue dress worn to the wedding by Marchesa.
Kevin Kwan originally wrote the novel as a short story adaptation of a poem he wrote for a creative writing course titled "Singapore Bible Study" in a way of preserving memories of life in Singapore during the 18-month period (October 2008 to April 2010), he was caring for his dying father. After the completing the chapter, he was inspired into turning it into a novel. The short story was eventually featured as chapter two of the book.
The bartenders at The Astor Bar inside the St. Regis Hotel Kuala Lumpur, a film location where socialite Astrid Young Teo, played by Gemma Chan, was is introduced, had created a cocktail called 'The Astrid'. The concoction consisted of Jose Cuervo silver tequila, pomegranate juice, lemon bitters, and elderflower foam.
If Constance Wu was obvious for the role of Rachel Chu, finding her partner on screen was more complicated. It needed an actor from Singapore who grew up in England and with a particular accent. Thousands of actors had been auditioned around the world and via the Internet. It was thanks to a production employee, the film's budget accountant, Lisa-Kim Kuan, who suggested Henry Golding to a producer, as someone who could play Nick Young. He was spotted while he was broadcasting travel programs, but had never shot in film and so he almost did not participate in the adventure, convinced he was not good enough for the role, nor legitimate enough.
The novel's publication, in June 2013, caught the attention of Nina Jacobson, while she was completing The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. However, Jacobson said she was fortunate to acquire the film rights to it, after the a deal attempt between Kevin Kwan and the first bidder Wendi Deng (shortly before her divorce from Rupert Murdoch), failed to materialize. It had taken them nearly three years to find a proper script and a studio to finances 75 percent of the budget and this was before production could start.
Most of the cars featured in the film used fake license plates. For example, Peik Lin's Spyder plate started with the prefix SOK and the taxi prefix was SIV. In Singapore, cars with a three-letter prefix do not have the second letter as a vowel.
Constance Wu and Gemma Chan are both connected to the Doctor Who Universe aka The Whoniverse. Constance Wu appeared as CIA Agent Shawnie Yamaguchi on Torchwood: Miracle Day while Gemma Chan appeared as Mia Bennett on the 2009 special Doctor Who: The Waters of Mars.
Ken Jeong and Gemma Chan have appeared in the Transformers franchise in different films. Ken Jeong was in Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) and Gemma Chan appears as Quintessa in Transformers: The Last Knight (2017).
Despite some prominent billing, Harry Shum, Jr. (Charlie Wu) is only on screen for a few seconds in a scene that is about 30 seconds into the credits. He is the handsome man at the bar who Astrid smiles at. This appears to be a foreshadowing to setting up sequels, as Charlie is a prominent character in the second and third novels.
One of the biggest challenges faced by the costume designer played by Sonoya Mizuno was Araminta Lee's wedding dress. It had to be waterproof, since the path that leads the future bride to the altar turns into a stream.
Unlike the movie, the book doesn't end with Eleanor changing and accepting Nick and Rachel's relationship and everyone "happily ever after." Instead, Nick, disgusted with his family's antics toward Rachel, defies Eleanor and vows to have nothing to do with his family to be with Rachel.
Most of the scenes were filmed in Malaysia, instead of their supposed locations. The list includes: London (opening scene in "The Calthorpe Hotel"), New York (Lecture theatre, Cake and Carry restaurant), Singapore (bible study house, First Class cabin, the grandmother's mansion, airport hangar, the mahjong house, the economy class cabin), and International Waters ( where the bachelor party was held).