Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is an upcoming American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character Shang-Chi. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is intended to be the 25th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton from a screenplay by David Callaham and stars Simu Liu as Shang-Chi, alongside Tony Leung.
A film based on Shang-Chi has been in development since 2001, but work did not begin in earnest on the project until 2018 with the hiring of Callaham. Cretton joined in early 2019, with the project fast-tracked to be Marvel’s first film with an Asian lead. The film’s title and primary cast were announced that July, revealing the film’s connection to the Mandarin (Leung) and his Ten Rings organization that appear throughout the MCU. Filming began in February 2020, but was put on hold in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Production resumed at the end of July into early August 2020 before completing in October. Shooting occurred in Australia and San Francisco.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is scheduled to be released in the United States on July 9, 2021, as part of Phase Four of the MCU.
Simu Liu as Shang-Chi: A skilled martial artist.
Tony Leung as the Mandarin:
The leader of the Ten Rings terrorist organization. The Mandarin replaces Shang-Chi’s comic book father Fu Manchu, a “problematic character” associated with racist stereotypes whom Marvel Studios does not hold the film rights to.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton stated that he wanted to change the problematic aspects of the Mandarin, saying, “I think [Leung] brings a humanity that we need for that character. We are not looking to contribute anymore to the Asian stereotypes that we have seen both in cinema and pop culture… [Leung] is such an incredible actor and I’m excited to have him help us break some of those stereotypes”.
Additionally, Awkwafina, Ronny Chieng, and Michelle Yeoh have been cast in undisclosed roles.
According to Margaret Loesch, former president and CEO of Marvel Productions, Stan Lee discussed a potential Shang-Chi film or television series with actor Brandon Lee and his mother Linda Lee during the 1980s, with the intention of having Brandon Lee star as the character in such a project. Brandon’s father, martial arts legend Bruce Lee, was the visual inspiration for artist Paul Gulacy when drawing Shang-Chi during his tenure on the Master of Kung Fu comic book series in the 1970s. In 2001, Stephen Norrington signed a deal to direct a Shang-Chi film entitled The Hands of Shang-Chi.
By 2003, the film was in development at DreamWorks Pictures with Yuen Woo-Ping replacing Norrington as director and Bruce C. McKenna hired to write the screenplay. Ang Lee joined the project as a producer in 2004, but the film did not materialize after that point and the rights to the character reverted to Marvel. In September 2005, Marvel chairman and CEO Avi Arad announced Shang-Chi as one of ten properties being developed as films by the newly formed studio Marvel Studios, after the fledgling company received financing to produce the slate of ten films which were to be distributed by Paramount Pictures.
According to Chris Fenton, former president of the Chinese-based film production company DMG Entertainment, who was in talks with Marvel Studios to co-produce their films, Marvel offered to create a teaser featuring either Shang-Chi or the Mandarin for the Chinese market that would be featured at the end of The Avengers (2012). DMG balked at the offer, since the Mandarin’s negative stereotypical portrayal in the comics could potentially prevent the film from releasing in China and risk shutting down DMG as a company. Ben Kingsley would eventually portray Trevor Slattery, an impostor posing as the Mandarin, in Iron Man 3 (2013), which DMG co-produced.
By December 2018, Marvel had fast-tracked development of a Shang-Chi film with the intent of making it their first film with an Asian lead. Marvel hired Chinese-American writer David Callaham to write the screenplay, and began looking at Asian and Asian-American filmmakers to potentially direct the film. The studios’ goal was to explore “Asian and Asian-American themes, crafted by Asian and Asian-American filmmakers”, as they had done for African and African-American culture with Black Panther earlier in 2018.
Development of the film also came following the success of the film Crazy Rich Asians, also released earlier in 2018, which led to several other Asian-led properties being developed by Hollywood studios.
Callaham’s script was expected to modernize elements of the character’s comic book story, which was first written in the 1970s, to avoid what modern audiences would consider to be negative stereotypes.
Richard Newby of The Hollywood Reporter said the film could “break out in a way similar to Black Panther” by bringing a new perspective to the character.
Newby felt Shang-Chi could have worked well as a television series, and said it “speaks volumes” that Marvel would decide to make a feature film about the character instead. Newby concluded that the film is an opportunity to avoid stereotypes about Asian martial artists and be “more than Marvel’s Bruce Lee”.
Marvel Studios hired Japanese-American filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton to direct the film in March 2019. Deborah Chow—who previously directed episodes of Marvel’s Iron Fist and Jessica Jones television series—Justin Tipping, and Alan Yang were also considered.
In April, Marvel Studios and Australian Arts Minister Mitch Fifield announced that an upcoming Marvel film, believed to be Shang-Chi, would be filmed at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney and on location throughout the state of New South Wales. The production received AU$24 million (US$18 million) in one-off funding from the Australian government, as well as backing from the AU$10 million (US$8 million) “Made in NSW” state fund. The production was expected to generate AU$150 million (US$115 million) for the Australian economy as well as 4,700 new jobs, while taking advantage of around 1,200 local businesses.
Don Harwin, the New South Wales Arts Minister, confirmed in July that this film was Shang-Chi and that it would be produced back-to-back with Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder (2022); production on Shang-Chi was set to be completed before work began on Love and Thunder later in 2020.
In mid-July 2019, Marvel began testing actors in their 20s for the role of Shang-Chi. The studio was adamant that actors be of Chinese descent to audition for the character.
This group included Simu Liu, who tested for the part on July 14 and was officially cast on July 16. This was announced by producer Kevin Feige and Cretton at Marvel Studios’s San Diego Comic-Con panel on July 20, where the film’s full title was announced to be Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Feige noted that the Ten Rings organization had appeared throughout the MCU since its introduction in the franchise’s first film, Iron Man (2008), and said its leader the Mandarin would be introduced in this film with Tony Leung in the role. Feige also announced that Awkwafina would appear in the film. Filming was expected to begin in November 2019, but Cretton said in October that production would begin in early 2020. In December, Feige said the film would feature predominantly Asian cast members. A month later, Michelle Yeoh entered talks for a role in the film, said to be different from Aleta Ogord, who Yeoh portrayed in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).
Principal photography began in February 2020, shooting at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney and on location throughout the state of New South Wales. Bill Pope served as cinematographer for the film. Cretton chose Pope because he felt the cinematographer’s style could be both naturalistic and heightened, and because of Pope’s work on The Matrix (1999), which Cretton believed had the right tone for an MCU film focused on Asian and Asian-American characters.
On March 12, after studios had started halting production on films due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cretton decided to have himself tested for coronavirus after working closely with people who had potentially been exposed to it. This was a precaution due to Cretton having a newborn baby, and he self-isolated while awaiting these results; the test later came back negative. While Cretton was self-isolating, Marvel temporarily suspended first unit production for the film but intended for second unit and other aspects of the production to continue as normal. On March 13, the rest of the film’s production was paused as Disney halted filming on most of its projects. Before production shut down, Ronny Chieng joined the cast in an undisclosed role.
In early April, Disney shifted much of their Phase Four slate of films due to the pandemic, moving Shang-Chi’s release date to May 7, 2021. In early July 2020, it was announced that any cast and crew member returning to the country to resume filming would be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival, according to Australia’s guidelines.
Work building sets for the film resumed at the end of the month, and by August 2, all cast and crew members had arrived and completed their quarantine to begin shooting “in the coming days”. Later that month, Yeoh was confirmed to appear in the film. The next month, the film’s release date was pushed back to July 9, 2021, after Black Widow (2021) was shifted to the prior date, and in October, filming took place in San Francisco under the working title Steamboat.
Shooting locations included the Russian Hill, Noe Valley, and Nob Hill neighborhoods, as well as Fisherman’s Wharf. Filming wrapped on October 24, 2020. Filming was also expected to take place in Los Angeles.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Release Date
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is scheduled to be released on July 9, 2021. It was previously scheduled to be released on February 12, 2021, the first day of the Chinese New Year, before it was shifted to May 7, 2021, and then to the July 2021 date due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be part of Phase Four of the MCU.