Director Lulu Wang criticizes Ron Howard’s film about Chinese pianist Lang Lang

Director Lulu Wang
Director Lulu Wang attends the 2019 Sundance Film Festival for her film “The Farewell.”
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Amid ongoing scrutiny of the lack of diversity in Hollywood, AGC Studios has tapped Ron Howard to direct a film about Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang.

Many, including “The Farewell” director Lulu Wang, questioned the project Tuesday on Twitter after the Hollywood Reporter released details about the biopic, which will be produced by Brian Glazer and adapted for the screen by Michele and Kieran Mulroney, based on Lang’s memoir, “Journey of a Thousand Miles.”

“As a classically-trained pianist born in China, I believe it’s impossible to tell Lang Lang’s story without an intimate understanding of Chinese culture + the impact of the Cultural Revolution on artists & intellectuals + the effects of Western imperialism,” Wang tweeted. “Just saying.”

“The Farewell” filmmaker Lulu Wang talks supporting other female directors and her campaign to get N95 masks and more PPE to doctors and nurses treating coronavirus.


The film will be executive produced by Polygram Entertainment’s Michele Anthony and David Blackman, along with Jean-Jacques Cesbron and Lang, who co-wrote “Journey of a Thousand Miles” based on his experience growing up as a musical prodigy in Shenyang, China, on a path to global superstardom.

“I’m not saying this because I want to direct this movie. I do not,” Wang continued in her Twitter thread. “I just don’t think these are the artists to grapple w/ the cultural specificities of Northeast China where Lang Lang (and my family) are from. Or w/ the cultural aspect of the physical violence in his upbringing.”

On Tuesday, Howard also took to Twitter to share his excitement about the opportunity. Howard’s production company, Imagine Entertainment, declined to comment to the Los Angeles Times on Wang’s concerns. AGC Studios did not immediately respond Wednesday to The Times’ request for comment.

“Bringing Lang Lang’s extraordinary childhood and career journey to the screen promises to be an amazing creative experience for all of us involved,” Howard tweeted. “I’m thankful for Lang Lang’s trust. I know it will be a personal adventure for me and an opportunity to really transport audiences.”

In a statement obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, Lang said, “Dream big, work hard, and always believe in yourself. This movie, thanks to Ron Howard’s vision, will inspire young people around the world to follow their dreams and never forget they are one in a million.”

Disney’s live-action “Mulan” is courting controversy for crediting entities in the Xinjiang region linked to the government’s “reeducation camps.”

News of Howard’s Lang Lang biopic comes shortly after the live-action adaptation of “Mulan” debuted on Disney+ to mixed reviews and a firestorm of controversy. Disney has similarly come under scrutiny for hiring a white director and screenwriters to tell the origin story of a Chinese hero — among other criticisms.

“Have we learned NOTHING from Mulan?” Wang wrote. “I haven’t said anything because yes representation and many people I love are involved, but I just have to. Just HAVE to. Because 2020 man... and I’m f—ing exhausted.”