Lang Lang biopic: criticism over Ron Howard directing film about star Chinese pianist

24 September 2020, 12:11 | Updated: 24 September 2020, 14:04

Ron Howard to direct biopic about star pianist Lang Lang
Ron Howard to direct biopic about star pianist Lang Lang. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

A new biopic is coming about star classical pianist, Lang Lang – but Chinese-American director Lulu Wang has questioned Ron Howard’s role in telling the musician’s story.

Two-time Oscar-winner, Ron Howard, is directing a biopic on Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang, based on the star classical musician’s memoir Journey of a Thousand Miles.

But since The Hollywood Reporter announced the news on Twitter, Howard’s involvement in the project has been put up for question – including by The Farewell director, Lulu Wang.

Wang tweeted: “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. Just saying.”

Howard, who will also be producing the film alongside Academy Award-winner Brian Grazier through their Imagine Entertainment company, has not yet responded to Wang’s comments.

With ongoing scrutiny of the lack of diversity in Hollywood, people have also objected to the role of screenplay writers Michelle Mulroney and Kieran Mulroney, who both have white ethnicity.

Wang continued: “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.”

Read more: Lang Lang ‘sees’ music, ‘Bach is a Transformer, Mozart is Mickey Mouse!’ >

Based on the popular memoir by Lang Lang and David Ritz, Journey of a Thousand Miles, the film adaptation will lead us through the pianist’s extraordinary journey to stardom, beginning with his childhood in Shenyang, Northern China, where he grew up with parents who sacrificed almost everything – from their marriage to their own financial security – for their belief in their son’s talent.

Journey of a Thousand Miles will also dive into the intense relationship between Lang and his father, and how the young pianist was eventually catapulted onto the international stage.

The Curtis Institute-trained pianist, who this month realised a lifelong dream of recording Bach’s monumental Goldberg Variations, is working on the screenplay together with the Mulroneys.

Read more: Lang Lang marries fellow pianist Gina Alice Redlinger in glamorous ceremony >

Watch Lang Lang's incredible performance on Jimmy Fallon

Howard, who also directed a film biopic about the late great tenor Pavarotti, plans to film the biopic in China and the US, in both Mandarin and English.

“Lang Lang’s story is one of determination, passion, sacrifice, and finding the inner strength to beat the odds,” Grazer and Howard said in a joint statement to THR. “This film is a bridge between two cultures that share universal truths about the gauntlets we face in the pursuit of greatness.”

The star pianist added: “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.”