During a July 2019 interview with Terry Gross on the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air," Lulu Wang explained that not only is the lie that forms the basis for this movie's plot a true family story (in that Wang's own family really did lie to Wang's grandmother about her terminal cancer diagnosis), they have also all continued lying to her about both her health and the plot of this movie, since giving her detailed information about the film's story would also give away the initial lie about her untreatable cancer. "My grandmother came to the production start party. And she met all of the actors and clearly saw that they were playing, you know, members of our family. And Shuzhen Zhao, the actress who played my grandmother, actually wanted to meet her. And so she went over there to her house for breakfast. And they spent the morning together. And so, you know, eventually, my grandmother came to know that the film is about our family. But I told her that, you know, it was just this sort of immigration story about this family who left and are coming back for a reunion because of a wedding, which, you know, is only a lie by omission. It's a lie. But, you know, I think that it wasn't that difficult to keep up because even when she visited set, a lot of the scenes that she saw reflected that plot that I told her." Wang also confirmed to Gross that her family assumed that lying about the movie's plot wouldn't pose a problem because the grandmother would likely die before it came out, which did not happen. However, during a January 2020 interview at the Golden Globes Foreign Language Symposium, Wang said that her grandmother had finally found out the truth. When the moderator of the event asked Wang if her grandmother still didn't know about the plot of the movie or her own cancer diagnosis, Wang's answer was: "Oh, gosh. This is a complicated question. She actually just found out. And it's very traumatic that it's coming out in China. And the title of the movie is Don't Tell Her in Chinese. And her friend saw a review of it and was so proud of her, one of her longest friends, and sent it to her. And the review said, 'The film is based on Lulu Wong's real life. Her grandmother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2013. Her family threw a fake wedding for her cousin from Japan and her grandmother didn't know. Then she made a movie about it...' so it went through the entire history of our family, and my grandma read it. And so she said to little Nai Nai, her sister, who plays herself in the movie, she said, 'I just thought that you were really daft, because you went and shot a movie, you went to the premiere in New York, and you come back and you can't tell me anything about it. You can't tell me what it's about. You can't tell me the title. But look, it says in the newspaper it's called Don't Tell Her, and that's why you didn't tell me, because I am the "her" of the "don't tell her."'"
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In addition to writing and directing, Lulu Wang also plays piano on the film's soundtrack.
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In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air" on July 24, 2019, Lulu Wang related how she had considerably underestimated the rates she would have to pay Chinese actors, citing how Shuzhen Zhao, who portrays Nai Nai, is a very popular actress in China and how she had to personally plead with her to accept this role.
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The first ever PG rated A24 film.
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A July 2019 Eric Kohn article on Indiewire said that when this movie opened in limited release on July 12, it "beat out Avengers: Endgame (2019) for the year's biggest per-theater average."
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Early in the film Billi discovers a bird has flown into her apartment and while trying to set it free receives a call from her grandmother. Many superstitions cite a bird flying into the home as a sign of impending death.
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The joke about the cat dying and "mom is on the roof" told around the dinner table is the same joke told by astronaut Peter Willis to himself as he is climbing up a desert cliff in the 1977 movie Capricorn One (1977). Seconds later, he is ambushed and killed by government helicopters.
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Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
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Little Nai Nai plays herself in the movie.
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The premise of this movie is based on a true story from Lulu Wang's real life: as the family in the film does, her family really did lie to Wang's grandmother about the grandmother's terminal cancer diagnosis in an attempt to prolong her life. The element of the story in which they use a family wedding as an excuse for everyone to come and visit the grandmother because she is dying was also based in fact. Wang had a great deal of trouble finding financiers to back the filming. American producers objected to the all-Asian cast and insisted that she needed to add prominent white characters. Chinese financiers thought the story was too American, and they also insisted on adding white characters. So in another attempt to draw attention to the project, Wang adapted the story into a segment of the April 22, 2016, episode of the public radio storytelling program "This American Life," which did result in Chris Weitz coming on as a producer and procuring other financing.
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When Billi, Haiyan and Haibin struggle to get to the hospital, no subtitles are displayed despite the characters speaking Chinese. This was intended to add a sense of confusion to their situation getting lost.
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