Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings’ director Daniel Destin Cretton has revealed that during Simu Liu’s audition he performed an acrobatic backflip, landing the infamous Black Widow superhero pose. Before landing his coveted MCU directorial debut, Cretton is perhaps best known for his collaborations with fellow MCU star Brie Larson on his films Short Term 12, The Glass Castle and Just Mercy. Marvel Studios tapped Cretton to take the helm on their fast-tracked Shang-Chi outing in March 2019, beating out The Mandalorian director Deborah Chow, who is currently helming the Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
Screen testing for the role of Shang-Chi, a highly-skilled martial artist who was trained to become an assassin from a young age, began in earnest in July 2019 and in addition to Liu, Cretton also considered Mortal Kombat star Lewis Tan. Liu eventually cinched the role, and was announced by Kevin Feige at Marvel Studios 2019 panel San Diego Comic-Con. An actor and stuntman, Liu first made his film debut as an extra in Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, and also worked as a stunt double on 2015’s Heroes Reborn. In 2016 he landed the role of Jung Kim in the critically acclaimed sitcom Kim’s Convenience.
With Liu’s MCU debut just around the corner, Marvel Studios are currently ramping up promotion for their first Asian-led superhero film. In a recent press conference for the upcoming blockbuster, Slashfilm reported that Liu chose to show off his acrobatic prowess by performing a backflip and executing a flawless Black Widow landing. The film’s director Cretton explained:
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.
While Liu’s audition feat would have probably caused Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova to roll her eyes in contempt, it certainly didn’t do Liu’s chances of securing the role any harm. As Liu himself went on to elaborate, “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.” Given how important it is for an actor playing a martial arts master to be able to fulfill the role’s demanding physical requirements, Liu’s decision to show off his skills evidently paid off.
As a stuntman with a background in Taekwondo and Wing Chun, as well as possessing gymnastics experience, Liu brings the necessary skills to what is bound to be an intensely demanding role. Marvel has previously felt the sting of casting less physically proficient actors in martial arts heavy roles, with Iron Fist stunt co-ordinator hinting that Finn Jones did not wish to train for the many fight sequences demanded of his character Danny Rand. Unlike Jones, however, Liu clearly possesses the aptitude to be able give his martial arts hero a strong physical performance in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.