Simu Liu Did His Best Will Hunting in Order to Play Marvel’s Shang-Chi

Between a powerful line read and a skillful backflip, the actor charmed director Destin Daniel Cretton.
Shang Chi Simu Liu

Entering the Discourse is a thrice-weekly column where we dig into who is saying what about new releases and upcoming projects. Today, whear from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings director Destin Daniel Cretton and actor Simu Liu about Liu’s audition for the titular role.

For actor Simu Liu, joining Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a huge break. Previously, he was known for his television work, starring in such series as Kim’s Convenience and Blood and Water. He’s also a trained stunt performer who specializes in Taekwondo and Wing Chun.

Now, Liu is using that diverse experience to push into the film world. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe installment, he plays the comic book character Shang-Chi, a martial arts master who must confront his past to fight back against the Ten Rings organization.

Simu Liu’s ‘Good’ Audition

Before he secured the role of Shang-Chi, Simu Liu had to go through the audition process. Director Destin Daniel Cretton decided to give Liu two scenes from Good Will Hunting. While it seems like a strange choice, Cretton was influenced by Gus Van Sant’s 1997 film and sees Shang-Chi as being a lot like Matt Damon’s character, Will Hunting.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the director says:

The character of Will represents this mixture of masculinity and vulnerability. He also has a secret and a superpower that he doesn’t quite understand and has not stepped into.”

In the same interview, Liu agrees:

“That movie is all about a guy going to extreme lengths to hide who he is. He’s a genius hiding in plain clothes. Shang-Chi is also somebody who is kind of putting on a mask day to day. It’s about Shang-Chi learning that even though there is a prescribed destiny that his dad has bestowed on him, he can also carve out his own path. It’s pretty Asian-American.“

How Simu Liu Accidentally Imitated Matt Damon

So which scenes from Good Will Hunting did Destin Daniel Cretton choose for Simu Liu’s Shang-Chi audition? The first is when Will and Skylar are at the racetrack talking about Will’s family, all while Will is trying to pretend he comes from a happy and healthy home. The second is when the two characters are breaking up.

In another interview, with Empire magazine, Liu discusses the latter moment:

“It’s such a beautiful scene, and much more dramatic and intense…impossible to do without a Bostonian accent. Impossible.”

He elaborates:

“I couldn’t help but deliver the lines with a tiny bit of Matt Damon affectation, which you’re not supposed to do as an actor. In class, if you’re doing scenes from a movie that’s already out, the most unoriginal thing you can do is copy everything that the actor did, right? But it’s so hard, especially if you love a movie, and the delivery of certain lines have been seared into your brain. You just get it.”

The Black Widow Pose

The cherry on top of his Shang-Chi audition was when Simu Liu performed an impromptu backflip into Black Widow’s iconic superhero pose. In an interview with Slashfilm, Cretton reveals:

“He did actually do that exact backflip into that pose that is made fun of in Black Widow. He did a backflip straight into the Black Widow kneel pose, hair flip up, looking straight to the camera as the closer to his first audition.

It may be silly, but why not show off your martial arts and gymnastic skills while having a little fun? Liu also tells Slasfilm:

“I thought it couldn’t hurt that I was auditioning for a Marvel movie…and I could show them that I could pull off a superhero pose.”

Obviously, it paid off for Liu. He snagged the lead role in a movie that has maintained the top position at the box office two weekends in a row.

Mary Beth McAndrews: Mary Beth McAndrews thinks found footage is good and will fight you if you say otherwise. When she's not writing, she's searching for Mothman with her two cats. Follow her on Twitter @mbmcandrews. (She/Her)