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On Monday night, the stars of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gathered in Hollywood to celebrate the upcoming Marvel Studios tentpole. But in an unusual set of circumstances for the Disney-owned studio, the premiere came just 48 hours after its lead, Simu Liu, took aim at Disney CEO Bob Chapek, who had described Shang-Chi‘s release strategy as an “experiment” for the company.
Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige addressed the tweet during the premiere, saying of Liu: “He is not a shy man. I think in that particular tweet you can see — and I think everyone does — a misunderstanding. It was not the intention. The proof is in the movie, and we swing for the fences as we always do. With the amount of creative energy we put in and the budget, there’s no expense spared to bring this origin story to the screen.”
On Aug. 12, Disney CEO Bob Chapek fielded a question during an investor call about keeping Shang-Chi and Free Guy as theatrical exclusives rather than making them available day-and-date on Disney Premier Access, as the company had done with Black Widow, Cruella and Jungle Cruise. Chapek called Shang-Chi “an interesting experiment for us,” as the film only has a 45-day theatrical window. He added, “the prospect of being able to take a Marvel title to the service after going theatrical with 45 days will be yet another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles.”
On Aug. 14, Liu responded to that comment via a statement on Twitter. “We are not an experiment,” Liu began. “We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers. We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I’m fired the f**k up to make history on September 3rd; JOIN US.”
Feige also noted that Shang-Chi‘s premiere had a similarly impactful feel to that of Black Panther‘s celebrations. “When you have the opportunity to showcase a hero that looks like a huge segment of the globe that feels like they haven’t been showcased, the magic can happen if you deliver. I think Destin [Daniel Cretton] and Simu have delivered for this movie.”
Feige added that he noticed a superhero quality in Liu after “a lot of reads, a lot of auditions,” adding, “there’s no magic formula” in finding the right person for a Marvel hero. “It’s a feeling. It’s a sense of both the ability to be relatable and grounded and, at the same time, take your place in that pantheon of heroes should everything go so well in an origin story they will end up with the other pandemic heroes.”
As for what could potentially be next for Liu’s Shang-Chi, Feige noted, “There is a direct line of where he heads to next.”
Shang-Chi is a barrier-breaking film for Marvel, as it is the studio’s first to star a largely Asian cast. It also stars Tony Leung, Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh, Fala Chen, Meng’er Zhang, Florian Munteanu and Ronny Chieng.
Liu’s comments came as another Disney star was at odds with the company, which is in the midst of a bombshell lawsuit with Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson, who is suing over Disney’s decision to release the Marvel title simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access. The actor claimed the move hurt the box office in favor of juicing Disney’s streaming service.
Marvels’ Feige addressed the lawsuit at the premiere, noting he is “all for amicable solutions.”
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