‘Shang-Chi’ Isn’t Simu Liu’s First Superhero Role

Shang-Chi’s Simu Liu once played Spiderman, but not on the silver screen. Back in 2014, when he was still struggling to find his breakout role, Liu took odd jobs here and there, including gigs for kids birthday parties. There, he backflipped as the web-slinging character and led party games, but couldn’t take off his mask because “the whole believability would be shattered.”

The rule appeared to further emphasize the lack of Asian representation in superhero movies, and later that year inspired Liu to write, direct, and star in his own parody film called The Crimson Defender vs. the Slightly Racist Family. Liu plays a bulletproof orange-and-black clad superhero who sets out to save a white family kidnapped in a barn. The family can’t believe Liu’s character has good intentions though, because they’ve never seen an Asian superhero.

His eight-minute film cost $3,000, took 15 hours to film, and gave Liu a chance to display his acting chops. He’s wanted to play a superhero for a long time, and all he needed was Hollywood to give him a chance. “It’s always been a part of my life,” Liu says. “Just that idea of being a superhero.”

Now, Liu’s dream has come true, as he’s secured a major superhero role that celebrates his identity and allows him to have a stake in how Asians are perceived in media. He recognizes the importance of being the first Asian lead in a Marvel movie. “Maybe that’s why I loved superhero movies from the get go,” he says. “They grapple with these big ideas of good versus evil. Once you have power, how are you going to use it?”

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