Randall Park and Adrian Tomine are going to do the “flaws” – or not at all
The graphic novel Gaps is a darling work of contemporary Asian American storytelling, but the main character, Ben Tanaka, would surely roll his eyes, fold his arms, and breathe a deep sigh of exasperation over anything that is described in such precious terms. He’s above it all. But also identity, representation and pride can be difficult to deal with when you don’t like yourself very much.
Ben rejects these things like he rejects the people in his life who love him. He’s a malcontent who is both hilarious and tragic at the same time, an iconoclast who adheres to stereotypes even though he is determined not to be judged as such, and his search for romance intersects between awkward, shocking, endearing and infuriating.
He’s a brilliant character. So how is it possible that Gaps has never been featured on screen before? The answer to this, like the character himself, is complicated.
Artist and writer Adrian tomine has now adapted his own screenplay from the 2007 book, and the actor Randall Park gets behind the camera to make his debut as a feature film director. It’s early in the process, but their journey together highlights the changes underway in Hollywood as filmmakers attempt to present newer and fresher perspectives. Sometimes they have to team up.
For the past ten years, Tomine has resisted a film adaptation of Gaps, in part because of the dismay he felt at the way studio executives approached his book when it was released. “The experience between yesterday and today is night and day,” he says. “I mean, I hit a lot of brick walls immediately when I first tried to do it. The closest I got would be a reunion, and they were often heartbreaking. I had a face-to-face meeting with someone and, you know, I was already too optimistic, but right off the bat they were like, ‘How hard would it be to rewrite the script so that it can be cast? ”
It was code for something very specific. “Well, turn him into white people, I think,” Tomine said.
A force of Gaps is its relatability. You don’t have to be a 30-year-old Japanese American who runs a cinema in the Bay Area to get in touch with Ben. It’s someone you know, or maybe it’s you, if you’ve struggled with the need, yearned for acceptance from others to fill in the voids in yourself, and has been your worst at times. enemy. This led some would-be producers to believe that the role could be played by anyone. But the young Asian-American experience is an essential part of Tomine’s tale, and not something that can be taken away without seriously damaging the story.
GapsThe characters try to find a place for themselves in their own country and culture, where they are often mistakenly treated like strangers or feel like strangers. Tomine, who is American-Japanese, also explored how pressures associated with race and ethnicity come into play in intimacy and interpersonal relationships. Ben’s girlfriend, Miko Hayashi, is politically active and culturally attuned, scheduling an Asian-American film festival, which Ben wants: “Why does everything have to be a big ‘statement’ on the race?” he slams her. It laments that his pornographic habits and flirting in the workplace have revealed an unqualified attraction to white women. Meanwhile, her best friend and confidante Alice Kim asks her to pretend to be her boyfriend because she doesn’t think her Korean American church-going family would react well to her. be lesbian. They are also not thrilled that he is Japanese, given the historical conflicts between those countries, but she believes they will overcome this blockage more easily.
Open park Gaps at a comic book store in late 2007, when he was in his early 30s and still an actor struggling to get by in comedies, crime shows, and soap operas. “I remember getting it at Giant robot store on Sawtelle Boulevard in LA, ”said Park, speaking from his office via Zoom, with a framed cover of Gaps hanging on the wall behind him. “I remember flipping through it at the store and thinking I must have this book. I walked out of the store, flipping through the pages – I couldn’t put it down – and immediately searched for all of Adrian’s things that were there.