Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell” was one of the biggest sensations at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The dramedy, named the best of the festival in IndieWire’s critics’ poll, sold to A24 in a deal estimated between $6 million and $7 million, but it turns out Wang could have accepted a much bigger deal.
In a new interview with Vulture, Wang reveals a “streaming company” counter-offered A24 with a deal that was “more than double” the amount the boutique distributor was offering. While one might think landing an eight-figure deal would be a huge victory for a rising star, that wasn’t necessarily the case for Wang.
“I was pretty upset because we were all so happy with the [A24] deal before this other offer came in,” Wang said. “That’s kind of how capitalism works — it ruins things because it shifts your perspective entirely.”
In keeping with the spirit of her acclaimed new film, Wang turned to her family for guidance. The writer-director asked her mother for advice on which deal she should take. “I can buy you a house now. And you can tell all your friends,” Wang told her mother. The latter fired back, “Why would you buy me a freaking house? I already have a house. The film is your baby and you have to give it to the place that is not necessarily the wealthiest, but will give it the most love and joy and bring it into the world in the right way.”
Wang took her mother’s words to heart and realized “it wasn’t about a number” but which studio could provide the best rollout for her comedy-drama. A “streaming service” would not afford “The Farewell” a traditional theatrical release, in which a platform rollout could build word-of-mouth buzz and help the film break into the cultural conversation. Wang agreed to team up with A24, a decision her star Awkwafina continues to praise.
“I think that is surprising because you don’t really think that about people like us, you know?” Awkwafina told Vulture. “She’s a boss bitch.”
“The Farewell” is based on Wang’s own experiences with her Chinese family. Akwafina stars as a woman who travels home to China to say goodbye to her dying grandmother. The catch is that the grandmother does not know she has a terminal illness, and the entire family is coming together under the lie that the family is actually gathering to celebrate another family member’s wedding.
A24 opens “The Farewell” in select theaters July 12.