Marvel Studios recently announced that we are getting the movie fans have been begging for since Iron Fist season one was so divisive – Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu! The rights to this character have long been held in a strange and complicated limbo which may explain why it has taken this long for Shang-Chi to make the leap from the page to the big screen.
In anticipation of the inevitable casting announcement, I wanted to take the time to highlight 5 Actors who I think would make a kick-ass Shang-Chi!
5. Henry Golding
What do I know him from?: Crazy Rich Asians
Probably the biggest rising star that I’m putting on this list and was largely selected because I walked out of Crazy Rich Asians frankly baffled that Henry Golding hadn’t already been cast a superhero. He has a lot of buzz around him right now and would be a very en vogue casting decision. If Crazy Rich Asians sweeps the Award Season he’ll be an even more attractive casting decision for Marvel Studios. He has all of the charm and acting chops it would take to lead a vehicle like this for himself. I’m not too sure about what level of fight or martial arts training Golding has (if any), and I do think Shang-Chi should have some level of proficiency as an on-screen combatant which is why I did not place him higher on my list.
4. John Cho
What do I know him from?: Probably the Twitter movement #StarringJohnCho earlier this year or Star Trek
He’s at least a competent fighter. We saw John Cho’s Hikaru Sulu wielding a katana with great aplomb and if he were to get the part I think there’s an opportunity for a very fun Easter Egg with that. Cho is probably best known for his more comedic roles (hey, Harold and Kumar!), but Marvel likes to inject a healthy does of humour into their superhero movies in a post-Guardians of the Galaxy world. This would make him an excellent candidate for the job. He has also taken on more leading roles including this year’s Searching putting him in a prime position to take all of the sweet, sweet genre cred he earned from the Kelvin-verse Star Trek movies and lead a genre movie of his very own.
3. Simu Liu
What do I know him from?: Kim’s Convenience – or Stephen and I talking about Kim’s Convenience one the Major Spoilers Podcast
If you aren’t following Simu Liu on Instagram you really must. Not only is he hilarious and dynamic as Jung on Kim’s Convenience, but his Instagram is being curated to get him cast as a superhero. He regularly posts videos of fight training, flips, and all types of acrobatic tricks which bring to mind some of Stephen Amell’s early work on Arrow when he was doing more parkour during the first season. Another trick Marvel Studios likes to deploy is casting actors on the brink of hitting it really, really big to play roles in their movies and make their names that way. Casting Liu as Shang-Chi would definitely be following in the grand traditions of Tom Hiddleston, Chris Pratt, and Letitia Wright. Liu also has strong comedic chops as displayed in not only his work on Kim’s Convenience, but the (often parody), content he regularly produces for Youtube. He’s got his hands in several pies that could all coalesce to make a very interesting Master of Kung Fu.
2. Donnie Yen
What do I know him from?: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story among many others (seriously, read his IMDB)
Donnie Yen is absolutely the person on this list with the most impressive resume and most extensive body of work. What’s more impressive than his list of credits (including as a producer!), is his fighting skills! If you are like me and didn’t discovery Yen until his Star Wars debut I would highly encourage you to sit back and relax a number of his movies or even just a Youtube compilation of his all-time best on-screen fights because he is nothing short of a human dynamo. The choreography and precision of execution are nothing short of stunning. His performance extends to and through the fights he performs on screen. Since Shang-Chi is so defined by his level of skill to have the movie star someone so effortlessly capable of his most definable skill would certainly help set a groundwork for some of the wilder mysticism the plot could potentially delve into.
1. Daniel Wu
What do I know him from?: Into the Badlands
I first heard about Into the Badlands on the heels of the release of the first season of Iron Fist that I wrote an easy joke about in the opening segment of this article. Everyone was saying Into the Badlands was the show Iron Fist ought to have been and the show’s lead – Daniel Wu – was the man who ought to have been Danny Rand, the comic book blonde hair be damned! Having now caught up on the entirely of the show I think the assertion is 1,000% correct and I believe Daniel Wu is the actor currently working in Hollywood most suited to take the lead in a vehicle like Shang-Chi. He hits a number of criteria I listed above: he has proven he can lead a genre-driven property, he is on the brink of superstardom, he can deliver a scripted joke, and watching his fights is comparable in beauty and grace to watching a ballet. What I also like about him is that Wu is in his 40s. When Iron Man was being cast they went with a more mature lead to ground the character a bit and add a level of respectability Tony Stark did not enjoy with the general public prior to 2008. Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu is going to be a tough sell – it might even be an uphill battle – and an actor of his age, with his physique will straddle a number of demographics who may otherwise need convincing to line up at the cinema. Plus, I’m astonished We doesn’t have hundreds of movies under his belt and I want this for him!
Let us know down in the comments section whether you agree with our choices and who you think we might have left off the list!