Ron Howard Receives Criticism From Lulu Wang For Directing Biopic Of Chinese Pianist

Ron Howard directs an upcoming biographical film
Ron Howard directs an upcoming biographical film / Wikimedia Commons / Twitter / Wikimedia Commons

Reality often emerges more incredible than fiction could ever be. Pianist Lang Lang turned out to be a modern-day prodigy whose talents took him across continents and seas. He rose to fame just years after turbulence in his place of birth, China. Ron Howard is working on a biopic of him but director Lulu wang voiced her disapproval.

Born in Beijing, 1983, Wang voiced concern that a white director and production team won’t be able to convey his story rooted heavily in Chinese history. She cited previous (recent) films, America’s identity as a melting pot, and the unique cultural situation in that region of China.


It’s “impossible to tell Lang Lang’s story” without the right background

In a series of tweets, The Farewell director Lulu Wang doubted that Ron Howard and his team are the best to tell Lang Lang’s story. “As a classically-trained pianist born in China,” she began. “I believe it’s impossible to tell Lang Lang’s story without an intimate understanding of Chinese culture and the impact of the Cultural Revolution on artists and intellectuals and the effects of Western imperialism. Just saying.”

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Above all, Wang went on to clarify her intentions. Wang specified, “I’m not saying this because I want to direct this movie. I do not. 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.”

Wang shares some similarities with the famed pianist. For example, she herself received classical training with the instrument. Wang spent most of her early years in Beijing before the family emigrated to Miami when she was six. She seemed geared up for a career in music, however, decided against it when she was in college. Steven Spielberg’s Secretary (2002) inspired her to pursue filmmaking. Her more famous credits include Posthumous (2014) and The Farewell (2019). The latter won the Independent Spirit Award for Best Film. It also ranked one of the top ten films of the year by the American Film Institute.

What does this all mean in context? 

Her tweets went live on September 22. On September 23, Lang Lang himself actually posted on his own account, “I am truly humbled to say that @RealRonHoward, @BrianGrazer & @weareAGCstudios will be making a new biopic about my journey. I have seen creative choices in Ron’s work that I strongly connect to in my own life and I am honoured to be able to share my story in this way.”

The team includes Ron Howard and writers Michele Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney from Power Rangers fame. They derive inspiration directly from Lang Lang’s memoir, Journey of a Thousand Miles. Lang Lang himself is an executive producer on the film. Howard and producing partner Brian Grazer issued a joint statement to THR. “Lang Lang’s story is one of determination, passion, sacrifice, and finding the inner strength to beat the odds,” they emphasized. “This film is a bridge between two cultures that share universal truths about the gauntlets we face in the pursuit of greatness.”

He brings his own experience as a prodigy who came into his piano talents at a very young age, though his inspiration came from an unlikely source. An episode of Tom & Jerry, featuring Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 drew his attention to Western classical music. By the age of nine, he found himself playing at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, though even then he proved an uncontainable soul and was expelled for “lack of talent.” That same young boy received encouragement from another professor and went on to play Chopin at the Beijing Concert Hall. After that, he took first place at the International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians. Next, he played with the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra. Today, he maintains an apartment in New York, and married fellow pianist Gina Alice Redlinger.

What do you think?

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