Professor David Henry Hwang Leads Screenplay for Anna May Wong Biopic

BY Emma Schillage, April 15, 2022

Concentration Head and Associate Professor of Playwriting David Henry Hwang will lead the screenplay for a new Anna May Wong biopic starring Gemma Chan, who is also a producer on the project. The project is an adaptation of Graham Russell Gao Hodges's biography of the early Hollywood star, Anna May Wong: From Laundrywoman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend. Wong’s career in Hollywood was often plagued by industry prejudice and discrimination. In response to her limited opportunities in Hollywood, she went overseas to perform in Europe. There, she dedicated much of her career to portraying Chinese accounts of life during World War II.


The biopic is created in honor of Wong as a pioneer for Chinese Americans in Hollywood and beyond. Hwang will be working with Wong’s niece, also named Anna Wong, who will act as a writer and consultant on the project.


When asked about working with Chan, Hwang stated, “I first met Gemma in 2013, when she acted in the U.K. premiere of my play, Yellow Face, which transferred to London's National Theatre in 2014. Even then, she talked to me about playing Anna May Wong. So we've been discussing this project for almost a decade, during which her star has deservedly skyrocketed upwards, allowing her to realize this dream project.”

Hwang also mentioned his excitement for the upcoming project, stating, “I wrote the first draft of the screenplay a couple of years ago and we're continuing to develop it. I'm thrilled to give Hollywood's first AAPI female star her long-overdue recognition.”


David Henry Hwang is a playwright, screenwriter, television writer, and librettist whose stage works include the plays M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Yellow Face, Kung Fu, Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival) and Disney’s Tarzan. Hwang made history in 1988 as the first Asian American playwright to win a Tony Award. Since then, he has been nominated for three other Tony awards. He is a three-time OBIE Award winner, a Grammy winner and two-time nominee, and a three-time Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama. Opera News called him America’s most-produced living opera librettist, and he co-wrote the Gold Record Solo with the late pop star Prince. From 2015-2019, Hwang was a Writer/Consulting Producer for the Golden Globe-winning television series The Affair. His screenplays include Possession, M. Butterfly, and Golden Gate. He is currently penning the live-action musical feature adaptation of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.