Screenwriter Chip Proser says he wanted his unmade Big Trouble in Little China 2 to be a less racist portrayal of the original film's story.
Veteran screenwriter Chip Proser says his unmade Big Trouble In Little China 2 movie would’ve been less racist than the original. The first Big Trouble in Little China was released in 1986 and directed by John Carpenter, starring Kurt Russell, Kim Kattrall, Dennis Dun, and James Hong. The film centered around protagonist Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), who helps his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) rescue Wang's “green-eyed” fiancée from bandits in San Francisco's Chinatown. The pair dive into the mysterious underworld beneath Chinatown, where they confront ancient sorcerer David Lo Pan (James Hong), who was cursed by Emperor Qin Shi Huang to wander the Earth as a ghost until he could find a green-eyed woman to marry.
While Big Trouble in Little China has become an iconic piece of 1980s action cinema (influencing modern blockbusters such as Thor: Ragnarok), it has been hit with controversy. Even when it first premiered in 1986, Big Trouble in Little China was hit with accusations that it was racist against Asians and in the decades since it came out there are elements of it that haven't aged well. It will be interesting to see how Dwayne Johnson's Big Trouble in Little China addresses these issues, but originally there was going to be a sequel to the original that would have been less racist.
In the podcast “Best Movies Never Made,” hosts Stephen Scarlata and Josh Miller recently spoke to Innerspace screenwriter Chip Proser about his unmade sequel to Big Trouble in Little China. Proser prefaces that he didn’t like the original movie to begin with, though he wrote two drafts of a potential sequel that was intended to be a TV movie for Fox. The draft they discuss in the podcast is dated to January 1995. Check out Proser's comments below:
“I wanted to try to make sense of it in a way that wasn’t racist in any way. I don’t know virtually anything about Chinese religion, but it seemed a little funny that it was all about marrying a girl with green eyes...I just tried to come up with a new and different story.”
The podcast goes on to discuss the “white hero audience avatar” of Jack Burton in a film about Chinese people and myths. Proser jokes sarcastically that there “always has to be a white hero,” to which the hosts respond with equal sarcasm that “you can’t make a little China movie just about Chinese people.” In fact, the unmade sequel that dives more into the religion aspect still focuses on a white protagonist, Steve Taylor, and his father as the curators of a Chinese heritage museum, though an attempt is made at explaining their understanding of Chinese culture by Taylor’s father growing up in Hong Kong and Taylor majoring in Chinese. The journey of the sequel culminates in the search for a magic ideogram puzzle broken into three pieces, topped off with the religious tropes of demons and a dive into a version of hell.
Throughout the podcast, Proser mentions the tendency in the industry of stories not often getting made. Further, the original Big Trouble in Little China was a commercial failure and didn’t gain much of a following until it became a cult classic much later, so committing to a sequel would have been a tough choice to sell. Nonetheless, fans of the original film might be happy to hear that a sequel exists somewhere on paper -- and a less racist one, at that. As Hollywood takes active steps toward inclusivity both on screen and behind the scenes, it is refreshing to see the writers themselves acknowledge the “white hero” trope and give a nod to creating a more culturally accurate representation of little China.