Early movie star Anna May Wong, who broke into Hollywood during the silent film era, will become the first Asian American to appear on US currency, a century after she landed her first leading role.
Wong’s image, with her trademark blunt bangs and pencil-thin eyebrows, will feature on the back of new quarters from Monday.
The design is the fifth to emerge from the American Women Quarters Program, which highlights pioneering women in their respective fields. The other four quarters, all put into production this year, feature poet and activist Maya Angelou; the first American woman in space, Sally Ride; Cherokee Nation leader Wilma Mankiller; and suffragist Nina Otero-Warren. The latter two were, along with Wong, selected with input from the public.
“These inspiring coin designs tell the stories of five extraordinary women whose contributions are indelibly etched in American culture,” the US Mint’s acting director, Alison Doone, said in a statement to CNN last year, when the list was revealed.
Considered the movie industry’s first Chinese American star, Wong overcame widespread discrimination to carve out a four-decade career in film, theater and radio. She acted alongside icons including Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford and Laurence Olivier and appeared on stage in London and New York.
Born in Los Angeles, she began acting at 14 and took a lead role in “The Toll of the Sea” three years later, in 1922. She went on to appear in dozens of movies but faced deeply entrenched racism in Hollywood, where she struggled to break from stereotypical roles.
She moved to Europe in the 1920s, but later returned to the US to make hits including “Shanghai Express,” the 1932 adventure-romance movie that gave Wong one of her best-known roles — it starred Dietrich as a notorious courtesan who takes a three-day rail journey through China during the Chinese Civil War and is held hostage on board, with Wong playing a fellow first-class passenger.
Throughout her life, Wong advocated for greater representation of Asian American actors in Hollywood. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960, the year before she died aged 56.
Clips from the brand new movie “Trick or Treat Scooby-Doo!,” which show the Mystery Inc. member googly-eyed and speechless when encountering costume designer Coco Diablo, have gone viral on Twitter, confirming suspicions held by the “Scooby” fan base for decades.
“OMG LESBIAN VELMA FINALLY,” reads one tweet, which has over 100,000 likes.
It’s long been an open secret among fans and “Scooby-Doo” creatives that Velma is gay. Even James Gunn, who wrote the early live-action films, and Tony Cervone, who served as supervising producer on the “Mystery Incorporated” series, have confirmed the character’s sexuality, but they were never able to make it official onscreen.
In 2020, Gunn tweeted that he “tried” to make Velma a lesbian in the live-action movies. “In 2001 Velma was explicitly gay in my initial script,” he wrote. “But the studio just kept watering it down & watering it down, becoming ambiguous (the version shot), then nothing (the released version) & finally having a boyfriend (the sequel).”
Last week, Disney+ released the sardonic Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers, a live-action film that unabashedly pokes fun at Disney’s own offerings. A contrast to the picture-perfect personas projected in the classics, beloved characters here appear to be hiding beneath sweet façades while working in the underworld.
This upcomingWinnie-the-Pooh movie, however, isn’t by the unusually self-deprecating Disney. It’s the creation of Rhys Frake-Waterfield and UK movie production studio Jagged Edge, who will soon premiere a horror film featuring none other than Pooh Bear. They aren’t coy about identifying the muse, either, as the flick will be entitled Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey.
In case you haven’t heard, Disney lost exclusive rights to author A.A. Milne’s first iterations of Winnie-the-Pooh on the first day of this year, when a bevy of classic works entered the public domain. This permits anyone to reinterpret the 95-year-old edition however they deem.
As Disney can’t honey-coat Winnie-the-Pooh on its own now, this version of the bear is far more sinister. Teaser visuals newly shared by the producers seem to depict him as a human killer wearing an animal mask.
Not only that, but Piglet appears to return as Pooh’s sidekick—or, should we say, partner in crime.
The only other details disclosed so far are the names of the main cast, which include Amber Doig-Thorne, Maria Taylor, and Danielle Scott, as detailed on Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey’s IMDb page. The release date has yet to be announced.
We know for a fact that Tigger won’t be in this movie since he only appeared in Milne’s books from 1928, so he’s still under the shackles of Disney. Christopher Robin and Eeyore are free to go, though, so might they escape into a world of darkness too?
If Disney isn’t careful, Mickey Mouse could be the next to go under the chainsaw. The Steamboat Willie version of its star character is slated to enter the public domain in 2024.
TFATWS specifically saw a man beat someone to death with one of the most iconic symbols in Marvel history, which came alongside a number of instances featuring blood and violence. Despite this, in an unprecedented move, Disney has gone back and edited the patriotic series to remove one of its darker scenes.
Brought to the attention of The Direct by Caleb Steel, eagle-eyed Reddit user u/MooninMoulin noticed that Disney has edited/censored The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, switching out a couple of bloody scenes with more family-friendly edits.
The first of these comes from the death of Hydra scientist Wilfred Nagel in Episode 3 of the series. Where there was once blood painted on Nagel’s face and shirt, there is now nothing. Also, instead of Nagel’s eyes remaining open, confirming his death, they are now closed.
Another altered shot focuses on a bounty hunter who, in the original edit, gets a pipe stabbed into her shoulder after Bucky Barnes throws it in her direction, thus pinning her to a shipping container. However, in the new version, that pipe bounces off the goon and goes flying, no longer piercing her flesh and the steel door behind her.
A decade ago, K-pop had already established itself as a force in Asia and found niche audiences around the world. But it was soon turned into a truly global phenomenon after Psy’s YouTube-breaking “Gangnam Style” went viral in the summer of 2012. Powered by a galloping dance and bonkers music video, K-pop became a buzz word that even your American parents suddenly knew about.
Six months earlier in 2012, though, a very different effort at introducing Korean pop to Western audiences had played out in the form of a made-for-TV movie, starring a septet who’d actually marked K-pop’s debut on the Billboard Hot 100 three years earlier.
The Wonder Girls was a 40-minute film starring the Korean group of the same name, co-produced by K-pop company JYP Entertainment and Nick Cannon’s N’Credible company, which premiered on the TeenNick channel in February 2012. The story follows the outfit on their first tour of the United States, with the Wonder Girls — at the time consisting of Kim Yu-bin, Park Ye-eun, Woo Hye-rim, Ahn So-hee and Min Sun-ye, on top of Korean entertainment after a string of hit singles and equally big across Asia — exploring New York city and getting into assorted hijinks. It culminates with them entering a talent competition at the Apollo Theater (where they face off against an American group called School Gyrls, from a different Cannon-produced movie). It’s a fish-out-of-water story geared towards younger audiences.
The TV movie became a K-pop curio, an obscure bit of trivia for fans. Yet a decade later, as K-pop has grown into a major entertainment force in the U.S., The Wonder Girls special seems more like an important moment in the history of Korean entertainment trying to break America, and one hinting at how future groups and companies would vault to the top of music and social media charts.
“The whole point of this was to introduce American audiences to K-pop,” The Wonder Girls writer Krystal M. Harris tells Billboard. “The Wonder Girls were super huge, can’t-walk-down-the-street celebrities at the time in Korea – but over here, not so much…”
K-pop heavyweights had attempted to cross over into the States before Wonder Girls, but with little success. The singer Rain embarked on an ultimately doomed North American tour in 2007, while ‘00s superstar BoA released an English-language album in 2009, complete with hype-generating music videos, but was met with middling sales outside of her home region.
Wonder Girls had debuted in 2006 as the first girl group in Park Jin-young’s eponymous JYP Entertainment stable. They quickly gained popularity, before the 2008 retro-tinged number “Nobody” turned them into a greater regional force. Their ambitions grew.
“It was about January 2009 when we were invited to JYP’s U.S. concert as the opening guest, and we heard that people loved our performance,” former Wonder Girls’ member Kim Yu-bin, better known as Yubin, says via email to Billboard. “That’s when we started trying to enter the U.S. market.
The quintet became the first K-pop group to mount a serious push into the U.S. market. They signed with Creative Artists Agency and, in a preview of how Korean artists would come to use U.S. talk shows as a launch pad, appeared on The Wendy Williams Show to perform a song and quickly introduce themselves. Most notably, they served as one of the opening acts for The Jonas Brothers, then at the peak of their Disney-pop superstardom, on their 2009 U.S. tour.
It all would have just been a nice memory if Wonder Girls didn’t make history in the process. Propelled by the Jonas Brothers tour, “Nobody” debuted at number 76 on the Billboard Hot 100. That was the first time a K-pop artist ever appeared on the chart. “Towards the end of the tour, JYP told us we would be starring in a movie,” Yubin says.
The film needed a director, and it found one in music video director Ethan Ladern – who previously worked with artists such as B.o.B, OneRepublic and Bruno Mars. A producer he knew worked closely with Cannon, and he eventually was brought on to direct. “We were doing a grand introduction of the Wonder Girls to the States,” Ladder tells Billboard. It was obviously important that we wanted to show off their singing skills and their talent, and it was about making them really fun.”
Harris, meanwhile, had previously worked with Lader on music videos, and came on board initially as a cast director. First, though, everyone involved needed a first draft of the script to come in. “The script was…a bit offensive,” Harris says. “We were putting Koreans into America, and the script was relying on stereotypical jokes.” She stepped up and volunteered to take a look at it.
She cleaned up the rough bits – which, beyond racist gags, also included the main American character and love interest of member Yenny being named “DJ Nuts, or something relating to a man’s parts.” She changed his name to DJ Skillz, and tightened everything else up, all without losing the TeenNick vibe. “I didn’t have a huge background in anything Korean, but I know when something is a bit insensitive,” she says.
The Wonder Girls earned Harris her first professional writing credit. She still had to cast the film too, which presented further challenges. “It was a non-union film, so that means my talent pool was going to be a lot of green actors,” Harris says. She describes many auditions as “very, very interesting” – but with some diamonds present, such as Wes Aderhold, who was cast as DJ Skillz. “He just knew how to smolder in the right teen way.”
At the time, Aderhold was a fledgling actor based in Los Angeles with only a few credits to his name. “I obviously wanted to portray a DJ authentically, so I watched countless videos of DJs and went to my friends who spin and mix, and watch them,” Aderhold tells Billboard of how he prepared for shooting, alongside working with his acting coach at the time.
The Wonder Girls prepped too, for what would be one of their first forays into acting. “We took acting classes as a group and worked on our English pronunciation and language skills,” Woo Hye-rim, better known as Lim, tells Billboard through email. “Thankfully, our characters were based on our real-life personalities, so it wasn’t that hard to get into the character.”
Language, though, loomed as a challenge. Prior to shooting The Wonder Girls, the group had only needed to use English in a handful of promotional situations, like their aforementioned TV appearances (though Yubin spent part of high school in San Jose). “It was hard enough to act in Korean, but to act in English was even more challenging,” Yubin says. “There was a scene where we had to argue, and that was the most challenging for us. Just imagine having a serious argument with broken English. That was hilarious. It was really hard to keep a straight face.”
Lader, on the other hand, doesn’t remember there being many hurdles for the group – recalling early takes coming off as dry, but with everyone finding their rhythm gradually. “Actually, what I remember was during dress rehearsals, the girls already knowing everything by heart,” he says. “They came prepared and were ready to take the challenge.” Aderhold noticed the same professionalism while acting with them. “I don’t believe any of the girls had acted before. So there was this excitement of doing something for the first time and realizing they were really good at it. That was fun energy to play off of.”
Everyone interviewed about the actual filming of The Wonder Girls recalls it being fun, albeit frantic to finish everything in a short amount of time. Visual gags happened in the moment — including JYP, playing the role of overprotective manager, opting to wear silly pajamas and an eye mask in one scene — while unforeseen challenges like filming above a kickboxing gym added unforeseen stress (“Everytime the ‘ding’ happened between rounds, that’s when we shoot scenes,” Lader says).
“I want to say the Wonder Girls got like three hours of sleep, because they were shooting with us for 12, 15 hours, and then they’d rehearse their dance sequences and then they’d have to be back on set early in the morning,” Harris says.
Some of the fond memories stem from The Wonder Girls’ off-set freedom. Harris recalls the crew talking about making plans to go out, “and the girls were so excited about it because nobody was going to know who they were. They weren’t going to be hounded like they usually were when they went out. For this one moment in time, they were able to just be young women, having fun.”
The film premiered in February 2012, at a time when K-pop was taking more serious strides into the U.S. market. At the same time as The Wonder Girls, compatriots Girls’ Generation promoted their English-language release “The Boys” on American TV shows, including a somewhat surreal performance on The David Letterman Show with Bill Murray and Regis Philbin watching on. In July of that year, Wonder Girls shared their big swing at the English-language markets (and a number previewed in their movie), “Like Money,” featuring Akon and a video directed by Lader, featuring the Wonder Girls reimagined as cyborgs. While performing well on Korean charts, the song largely breezed by the intended American audiences.
Five days after that clip debuted, though, “Gangnam Style” appeared on YouTube. Its soon-to-be mega-success underlined something the K-pop industry had actually taken advantage of before and what would become necessary moving forward – easy access online. The Wonder Girls could only be viewed when TeenNick broadcast it (or through illegal streaming sites) in 2012. Currently, the best place to view it is on YouTube via fan uploads.
“I often watch the clips on YouTube — the movie makes me feel refreshed,” Yubin says, while Hyerim also says she revisits it via these unofficial uploads.
The lack of access hurt its overall reach, but The Wonder Girls did foreshadow an approach that would become crucial in K-pop’s future promotion — creating a shared bond between fan and performer. “Just like the message we give in the movie, we wanted to share our journey with our fans; the journey to success in the U.S. as a foreign idol group from South Korea,” Hyerim says.
Despite being scripted, the movie aimed to show new viewers who the members of this group were, while also giving existing fans a different perspective on their favorites. This approach is commonplace today, whether through social media or more slice-of-life offerings like Blackpink’s Netflix documentary or aespa’s New York trip diary (including a chat with Nick Cannon).
“In my experience, they were really the first time time a group came out like, ”I want to go to the States. I want to plant our flag, and have K-pop be recognized for how amazing it is,” Lader says. “Now flash forward to someone like BTS, and if there aren’t those forebearers leading the way, they don’t get the same opportunity.”
Lader is still directing music videos, for artists such as David Guetta and NLE Choppa, while working on other projects. Aderhold recently moved to New York to pursue artistic ambitions, and says that the last time he saw the movie “was two or three years ago…my friends put it on the big screen, while we were having mimosas.” Harris kept in touch with The Wonder Girls via Facebook for a bit after, and focused on her acting and writing career.
The Wonder Girls marked the first serious effort to introduce K-pop into the United States, a process that has paid off in recent years. Yet for Yubin, there’s something more personal to it: “The most fabulous thing is that the movie allowed me to reminisce about our time in the U.S. The people that I met during shooting the film and the experience that I was on the scene are unforgettably precious to me.”
The Wonder Girls never pushed too much into the U.S. market after 2012, and the group disbanded in 2017. While not held up as an important step in K-pop’s push into the United States, The Wonder Girls marked the moment of an industry’s ambitions becoming much more serious.
“It was a brand new market not only for our group, but for a K-pop group to debut in the U.S.,” Hyerim recalls. “Regardless of the result, I enjoyed the challenge as I believe it made our group stronger as a team and also left us with such a special memory. If I could turn back time, I would do the same without a doubt.”
Make friends: The hardest part of making a movie is paying for it. Every person in your life becomes a potential investor or contributor. I enlisted all my friends. My assistant became my lead, my mom played a fortune teller, [the rapper] Despot was hanging out on set and became a character, half my rec-league basketball team is in the film. I made two of the songs for the soundtrack in Taiwan with dudes I met in the club, others donated locations, and friends of friends became heads of departments. Make friends, then make movies—together.
Practiceworking with actors:There’s a lot to keep track of as a director, but you can be terrible at everything as long as you do one thing well, and that’s working with actors. Every other department has a dedicated leader who is already incredible at what they do. You can get caught up trying to impress your DP with your knowledge of lenses or your production designer with your collection of fine china, but the only thing you actually have to handle is actors. That is the one thing you can’t fuck up.
The Ja Rule:As Ja once said, “Always there when you call, always on time.” I’ve heard horror stories about production delays, things running over budget, and directors being replaced. Growing up in restaurants, it was never okay to be late, short on the register, or wasteful with food. I brought that restaurant mentality to Boogie and told everyone that the schedule is the schedule and the days are the days. This is what is budgeted and this is what has to get done today. We’re all artists, but we’re also a business. The only way I get to make another film is if this one makes money. We finished principal photography on time and under budget—despite losing an actor to a threesome, where he got cracked over the head with a champagne bottle, amongst other unconscionable circumstances—because we said we would.
Go crazy: On the day you’re shooting a scene, it doesn’t matter how many movies you’ve watched or how many times you’ve storyboarded it, you have to be in it. You have to be with your actors, and on the journey, as a participant. One of my favorite scenes was written on set. One day, we finished early, so I threw Taylor [Takahashi, who plays the title character] and Jorge [Lendeborg Jr.] back on set, and gave them a deck of Monopoly Deal cards. I told Taylor, “You want to play cards instead of working on this school project because you don’t think school matters.” I told Jorge, “Boogie has basketball, you don’t. The only way you get to college is if you get him to work on this project with you.” It was my favorite scene to shoot because it reaffirmed the magic that can happen when a group of people put aside their fears and get after it.
Go away:After you shoot it, forget it. I spent way too much time editing and only figured the movie out once I stopped watching it. I’ve never had kids, but I do remember telling my parents over and over since the age of 12 to leave me alone, and I imagine that’s how my movie felt.
In this clip, Faizon Love and Vlad continued their discussion about Bruce Lee and Michael Jai White. Faizon reiterated that martial arts is more about skill and technique than brute strength, which he thinks would pose an impediment for Michael if he were to fight someone like Bruce Lee. Faizon also pointed out that Bruce Lee deserves his respect for teaching martial arts in Oakland during the height of the Black Power era which wasn’t the environment for someone who couldn’t hold their own.
Chris Rock sounded off on films that deal with Civil Rights struggles and said the issue with the majority of these films is that they “make racism look very fixable.” Rock said the stories his mother used to tell him about the Civil Rights Movement era make it clear these films should be “dirtier,” if they want to be accurate.
“I hate all Civil Rights movies,” Rock said. “Don’t get me wrong, I applaud the effort and they should exist. The problem is they only show the back of the bus and the lunch counter. They actually make racism look very fixable. They don’t get into how dysfunctional the relationships were in the ’40s and ’50s, white men would just walk in your house and take your food… it’s a predator-prey relationship. Do you think when it was time to rape, [white men] were raping white women? No. They would go and rape the women they could actually rape without going to jail for.”
“This shit is so much dirtier than any movie ever shows,” Rock continued. “My mother used to get her teeth taken out at the vet because you weren’t allowed to go to the dentist. No movie shows you that.”
Rock did not call out any Civil Rights movies by name, although his argument that such films “make racism look very fixable” were the same criticisms thrown at Best Picture winner “Green Book.”