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Cinema Junkie Episode 215: Marvel's 'Shang-Chi' Director Destin Cretton

Filmmaker Destin Cretton (far left) on the set of Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" with actor Simu Liu (far right).
Marvel Studios/Disney
Filmmaker Destin Cretton (far left) on the set of Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" with actor Simu Liu (far right).

Delve into the origin story of filmmaker ushering in MCU's first Asian superhero

It's not often that I get to say that I was there when a filmmaker's career began but I can say that about Destin Cretton. Currently he is ushering in Marvel's first Asian superhero with "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" but two decades ago he was a student who had not yet even thought about being a filmmaker. But then he attended the student film festival I ran called Film School Confidential and met San Diego State University professor and filmmaker Greg Durbin and decided to enroll at the SDSU film program. So for this podcast I delve into Cretton's origin story to see how he developed from a student filmmaker to indie darling to Marvel's latest director. Cretton talks about community, challenging himself as an artist and about making "Shang-Chi" and directing Hong Kong cinema royalty like Tony Leung and Michelle Yeoh. Plus I'll preview next month's spy theme with a Share Your Addiction and Cold Turkey about James Bond. And check out the latest Geeky Gourmet video where I'll show you how to make the Chinese rice porridge Shang-Chi eats in the film: https://bit.ly/CJGeekyGourmet

Two decades ago I met Destin Cretton at a student festival I ran and now he's directing Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings." Here's Destin's origin story.

If you lived in San Diego and got married in the early 2000s then your wedding video might have been made by the director of Marvel's "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings."

"I did a lot of wedding videos in order to just pay the bills," recalled filmmaker Cretton. Some people might be embarrassed by such work but Cretton notes that he loved it and learned from it.

Cretton came to San Diego after living in Maui for 20 years. When he came to my student film festival, Film School Confidential, he had not yet thought about a career in filmmaking. But he met San Diego State University professor and filmmaker Greg Durbin at the festival and was convinced to sign up for the film program at SDSU.

In 2002 I showed Cretton’s first student film "Longbranch: A Suburban Parable" and then watched his talent grow with "Bartholomew’s Song," "Deacon’s Mondays" and his award-winning "Short Term 12."

With each film he tried something new but always displayed empathy for characters as they struggled to find connections and a place in the world. Now he’s directed Marvel’s "Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" and has challenged himself to make a superhero film with the kind of characters he didn’t really see when he was young.

Destin Cretton Directs Marvel’s First Asian Superhero Film

"There wasn't a lot of just Asian American representation that felt like my friends (and) that felt like me. And so we wanted to contribute that to the MCU. We wanted our Shang-Chi to really feel like me and my friends and be relatable to anybody who is American," Cretton said. "And if anything, when you walk out of this studio, I hope whether consciously or subconsciously you will be much less likely to say all Asians are the same."

But delivering the first Asian superhero in the Marvel Universe came with a lot of responsibility for the Maui native.

"I've gone through my process of really stressing out about that responsibility of really carrying the weight, maybe a little too much to where I was unhealthily stressed about it in pre-production, but I do think that that amount of stress was helpful to get this story to the place where it is, where I feel very proud of what we're putting out into the world," Cretton added.

Delve into Cretton's origin story and find out what it was like making a Marvel film as I reconnect with the filmmaker.

Also, check out the "Share Your Addiction" and "Cold Turkey" that foreshadow next month's theme of spy films.

And the latest Geeky Gourmet shows you how to make the Chinese rice porridge Shang-Chi eats in the film and how to make some dragon scale festive turnovers and fried wonton ten rings.

Check out Cretton's blog post he did for Cinema Junkie when he won at Sundance for his short film "Short term 12," which he would later turn into a hit indie film.

Geeky Gourmet: Shang-Chi Treats