Marvel Finds Its Shang-Chi in Chinese-Canadian Actor Simu Liu

Simu Liu and Shang Chi - Getty - H - 2019
George Pimentel/Marvel
Awkwafina was also cast in the movie, which will be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton.

Canadian actor Simu Liu, who is best known for his role on the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience, has been cast to star in Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi, playing the titular character. Also joining the movie will be Crazy Rich Asians star Awkwafina and veteran actor Tony Leung.

The announcements were made Saturday at Marvel's presentation at San Diego Comic-Con in the cavernous Hall H arena, where Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige said the movie's full title will be Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and is set to hit theaters Feb. 12, 2021.

Destin Daniel Cretton is directing the stand-alone movie, which the studio hopes can be a cultural breakthrough in the same way its Black Panther film was in 2018.

Shang-Chi, who in the comics was born in China to a Chinese father and a white American mother, first appeared in 1973's Special Marvel Edition No. 15 and was created by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin after Marvel failed to acquire the comic book rights to the TV series Kung Fu. Shang-Chi was trained as a martial artist assassin by his father, the infamous pulp villain Fu Manchu, but later became a hero after rebelling against his father's ways. Shang-Chi was a hit character in the '70s, and recently saw a revival as a member of the Avengers during 2012's Marvel Now! Publishing event.

Marvel does not have the rights to Fu Manchu, a problematic character that has roots in xenophobic "yellow peril" tropes (the comics have long moved way from that character). Sources say that Marvel is still intent on doing a father-son story, with the studio revealing that the Mandarin would be the antagonist. The character was played by Ben Kingsley in 2013's Iron Man 3, with the conceit being that Kingsley was a thespian hired to play the genius-bad guy as a diversionary ruse.

Wonder Woman 1984 screenwriter Dave Callaham is penning the script for Shang-Chi and will update the character for modern audiences.

Marvel conducted "a really in-depth search to find someone that will capture all the dimensions that he deserves," Cretton noted during the presentation before announcing and bringing Liu to the stage.

Liu was born in China and immigrated to Canada when he was 5, growing up in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga. His first screen part was that of an extra in Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, but he became known for Kim's Convenience, a series about a Korean immigrant family running a Toronto convenience store. He also co-starred on Blood and Water, a Canadian crime drama that mixed English, Cantonese and Mandarin. The part earned him a Canadian Screen Award and ACTRA nominations. Other credits include Orphan Black, Fresh Off the Boat and the Taken TV series.

"I was cast on Tuesday," Liu said of the lightning-fast process that brought him to Hall H. "I screen-tested on Sunday in New York. This is the the craziest, craziest dream." He also said that his parents moved to Canada 25 years ago with almost nothing but a hope to build a life for their family and "all I've ever wanted was to make them proud."

Feige is producing, with Marvel's Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Jonathan Schwartz executive producing.

Liu is repped by Canada's Noble Caplan, Authentic Talent and Sloane Offer.