'Misunderstanding': Kevin Feige weighs in on 'Shang-Chi' brouhaha between Simu Liu, Disney CEO
The "Shang-Chi" star defended his upcoming Marvel film following a comment made by Chapek suggesting the film's release will be an "experiment" for the company.
Chapek, speaking to investors in a quarterly earnings call last Thursday, noted that amid the pandemic, Disney has made some of its films available in theaters, some straight to Disney+ and some a hybrid of the two, available on the streaming service for an additional cost (such as Marvel's "Black Widow" and "Jungle Cruise").
"On 'Shang-Chi,' we think it's actually going to be an interesting experiment for us because it's got only a 45-day window for us," Chapek said. "So the prospect of being able to take a Marvel title to the service after going theatrical for 45 days will be yet another data point to inform our actions going forward on our titles."
Liu wasn't thrilled with Chapek's characterization and tweeted, "We are not an experiment."
"We are the underdog; the underestimated. We are the ceiling-breakers," the actor wrote in response on Saturday. "We are the celebration of culture and joy that will persevere after an embattled year. We are the surprise. I’m fired the (expletive) up to make history on September 3rd; JOIN US."
USA TODAY reached out to Disney's and Liu's representatives for further comment.
Kevin Feige responds to Simu Liu's tweets
During the premiere of "Shang-Chi" on Monday, Marvel Studios president Feige responded to Liu's tweets.
"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," Feige told The Hollywood Reporter. "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.”
"Shang-Chi" will be released in theaters on Sept. 3 and arrive on Disney+ as soon as Oct. 18.
During the call with investors, Chapek was asked why Disney's latest releases, Ryan Reynolds' "Free Guy" and "Shang-Chi," were being released first in theaters amid moviegoers' renewed hesitancy to head to theaters, given the delta variant. He noted that the latter film was intended to be released into a "much more healthy theatrical environment" but the studio was unable to make a last-minute change to a simultaneous release.
Liu's comments comes less than a month after fellow Marvel star Scarlett Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney, alleging that her contract was breached when "Black Widow" was released on Disney+ at the same time as its theatrical debut.
In the lawsuit, Johansson said her agreement with Marvel Studios guaranteed an exclusive release in movie theaters and her salary was based in large part on box-office performance.
In a statement to USA TODAY, a spokesperson for Disney said the suit had "no merit whatsoever" and called it "especially sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic."
The company insists it "fully complied with Ms. Johansson's contract" and also pointed out that the Premier Access release "has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20 million she has received to date."
The Hollywood Reporter noted that Feige addressed the lawsuit at the "Shang-Chi" premiere, saying he's “all for amicable solutions.”
Previously this summer, Liu expressed frustrations with the apparent lack of representation of Asian voices among the writers of TV's "Kim's Convenience," which he starred on for five seasons until it ended in April.
Producers of the show, which is streaming on Netflix and stars Liu and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as members of a Korean-Canadian family who run a corner store in Toronto, announced in March that the fifth season would be the show's final season.
Liu wrote in a June Facebook post that he was disappointed in the show's "overwhelmingly white" producers not accepting more input from the majority Asian-Canadian cast. He reflected on his character's journey, saying he wanted to be a part of a sixth season but had grown "increasingly frustrated" with the portrayal of Jung and how he and other cast members were treated.
"I love this show and everything it stood for. I saw firsthand how profoundly it impacted families and brought people together," he wrote.
The producers said in a statement to USA TODAY that they decided not to move forward with another season after two of the show's co-creators left to pursue other projects. "Given their departure from the series, we have come to the difficult conclusion that we cannot deliver another season of the same heart and quality that has made the show so special," the statement read.
In response to Liu's post, the show's official social media accounts shared screenshots from show writer Anita Kapila's unverified, private Facebook page, in which she acknowledged "the women and BIPOC" she worked alongside, including Clara Altimas, Nadiya Chettiar, Carly Stone and Sonja Bennett. Kapila also mentions the "most diverse crew" and directors.
"We were not perfect. But we were there. I will forever be proud of what we accomplished," Kapila wrote in the screenshots.
Contributing: Brian Truitt