Look, there are a lot great scenes in Crazy Rich Asians—the entire thing is utterly brilliant, start to finish, TBH—but there’s one scene that we’re calling “ICONIC” on…and it nearly didn’t happen.
*SPOILER ALERT HORN SOUNDS*
It’s the second proposal, in which Nick Young (played by le dreamboat himself, Henry Golding) rushes onto the plane his true love his departing the country on to ask her to marry him…again. In the final version, Nick declares his feelings while making his way down the aisle (of economy class!), stopping to help people with their suitcases as he pours his heart out to a gobsmacked Rachel, who thought she would never see him again. It’s the perfect blend of comedy and romance.
HOWEVER. As director Jon M. Chu told Vulture in a new interview about the film, the original plan for that proposal looked a little different. It still went down on a plane, but instead of Nick rushing onto the aircraft, he was already in situ, hiding behind a newspaper until Rachel sits down next to him, ignorant that her seatmate was in fact her One True Love.
“I was like, this is problematic,” Chu told the outlet. “I do not want another talking scene. We need energy, I need movement.”
Instead, the entire thing basically ended up coming together on the… fly, with a lot of the action being improvised. In the end, despite it being stressful for all the Virgos involved, Chu thinks it’s that uncertainty that makes the scene the cinematic success it is, particularly for Golding. ““He didn’t think about the lines too much. The only direction was, ‘You want to express how much you love her and that you dreamt of this moment the whole time. By using his ease of charm, fighting through, trying not to be rude, and his ad-libs, like, that’s naturally Henry.”
Even before they got to the iteration that ended up being scrapped, the film’s creators toyed with a whole raft of other options for how this Big Moment would play out. According to Chu, they played with the idea of Nick buying out the whole plane, or stopping traffic en route to the airport, or even having Nick proposing with a helicopter and an orchestra back in New York. (That actually could have been kinda fun, especially if Peik Lin—a.k.a. Awkwafina—was playing first violin). In the end, simple and authentic ruled the day. Oh, and by the way: the entire thing was actually filmed on a real plane, parked on the tarmac at Kuala Lumpur’s airport.
There’s one more fun nugget from this interview. The ring that Nick finally proposed with—the family ring, the one that indicates his mother approves of Rachel—actually belongs to the actress who plays his mom, Eleanor Young. Basically, Michelle Yeoh took one look at the mock-up of the ring that the production wanted to wear and was like, “NOPE.” Instead, she actually used a sparkler from her own personal collection. Crazy right?