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Why Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet will never be a movie

Ah, the movie question. Yup. It comes up a lot. So much that I might as well get out there with the truth of why Henry and Keiko are not welcome on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? It's okay...I'll wait.

The answer can be summed up in the question that was often asked of me when I met with several Hollywood producers and that was, "How do we mitigate the financial risk without a white male lead?"

I'll pause and let that soak in for a moment. While you're soaking, take a look at this image of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. I'll get to that in a sec.

Now where was I? Oh yes, Hollywood. Well, in case you're wondering, my answer to the aforementioned question was "First, you need to go perform hideous obscenities upon yourself." And the conversation went downhill from there.

Is Hollywood inherently racist? No. Seriously, they're not. But film making is a business that plays to the averages and in this case, the average ticket buyer is Caucasian, often male. So that leaves a movie where the main characters are Chinese and Japanese out of the realm of commercial viability.

Sure, there's always going to be a Slumdog Millionaire, but that's an outlier so far out I can't even think of another multicultural movie that had that kind of success in the US. Because there are no good stories? No, because no one is willing to take a chance. And despite selling more than a million copies of Hotel, my book is still a gamble most Hollywood financiers are unwilling to take. They'd rather dump the GNP of a small island nation into a film like, oh, say...Battleship.

Which brings me to the sidebar of this whole thing and that's Wonder Woman. We've had how many films staring Batman and Superman? (And coming soon, Batman vs. Superman, in which Wonder Woman gets to be IN the film, but isn't part of the title).

Is it because the character of Wonder Woman was once a Charlie's Angel-esque, T&A, 70's icon? Perhaps. But I'm guessing it's because to Hollywood, she's a bad bet--a poor wager. Why take the chance? Which makes me sad. Because if Hollywood is just now trying to figure out how to do a "white female lead" like Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman, what chance do Henry & Keiko have?

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Reader Comments (22)


I am in pain. I hurt for Henry and Keiko. I hurt for the arts. And, I hurt for my son's cultural experience.

Hoping for better days; for more Jamie Fords, more Henrys and Keikos, and more filmmakers who are willing to take chances.

Love your work, and remember. It ain't over 'til it's over.
April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn Luce Robertson
I just. . . . I can't . . . I don't. . . .
Wow. I'm speechless and dumbfounded. This story has blockbuster all over it and I'm certain those Hollywood individuals you've come across so far will be kicking themselves and probably losing their jobs once the right producer comes along. Your book has already brought the characters to life but I would definitely love to see them on a movie screen as well.
April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJana

It's a true heartbreaker because it is a great story and would make for an enchanting movie. I wonder if Hollywood played to the averages when they made great films?
April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKay Huck
Thanks for the support!

Ironically, someone in the film industry told me this post was "uniformed."

The quote "How do we mitigate the financial risk without a white male lead?" was verbatim.

Don't know if there's any way to misinterpret that?

Wish I was wrong.

April 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
How about an animated version? That could be really beautiful.
April 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEric
Winner :)
April 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
Let's see if Miyazaki is willing to do just one more....
April 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEric
Yup. Nailed it!
April 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Diane Kastner
What about Memoirs of a Geisha? If I recall correctly, that movie did well and I believe it was even nominated for an Oscar (for cinematography or something like that...but still). There was also the Joy Luck Club...I don't know, I find it hard to believe that this could be a real concern. If the book is popular, the fans will go see the movie.
April 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSassy
Makes me sick! Billions of $ spent yearly on complete trash - with - BTW - white male leads who are willing to prostitute their talent & reps by even agreeing to do such moronic crap!
I LOVED both"Hotel..." & "Songs..." but apparently it doesn't matter what the public thinks - or should I say - what everyone besides the "white male" thinks!
September 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVee
Why does it have to be Hollywood? An independent filmmaker would do a better job, I should think. Please persevere in efforts to film Keiko and Henry.
Oh, and also, I'm sure you're tired of bthis being pointed out, but Paul Webster I think wrote the lyrics to "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good."
November 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy
Hi Amy...you're correct on the lyrics. :)

And we've been approached by some wonderful indie filmmakers, but since it would be a period piece, the budget tends to drift outside of what an indie group count finance :(

Happy Thanksgiving!
November 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
I am lucky enough to be a season ticket holder at Book-It Theatre in Seattle and their production was excellent and am amazingly true to the book. Of course it helps to have done the walking tour with you and to have eaten the coconut bun and stood at the top of the park and seen the trunks in the basement of the Panama Hotel.
December 12, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterleslie
I loved this story. I am a filipino- American that grew up completely around Americans and born in 1971 in my life I did not understand segregation, I did not understand my mother's customs, and still in my 40's these things are still vague. I like that you wrote about American history that is real and sometimes overlooked. If you do get to do your movie, I will be sure to see it. I thought of the movie, "The Saphires" about an aboriginese singing group during the war, the leads in the movies were not the typical, and still I loved the movie. You told a wonderful story and I enjoyed it very much.
December 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterj'ni
Dear Jamie,

I've just finished your book, earlier today. Odd thing is, I've always believed that a book finds its reader and not the other way around. My boyfriend got me your book to read as he stumbled upon some reviews of top reads. I even tried reading this book once months ago but I was so caught up with Masters that I've simply forgotten about it. And it popped up, three days ago when I was putting my papers away marking the end of my semester. And boy, it is one fantastic book. I read at lunch times and at every possible chance I get and when I was done I hunted to see if a movie about your book was released. I can't explain how deeply saddened I am that it would never be made into a movie but I understand the point you are coming from. However, I hope that you will get a chance that even if it's not Hollywood, you can still make it big. As big as life of pi or a hundred foot journey. There is so much potential in this and I do hope that day will come. That the making of this movie will find its way to you -when the time is right. :-) your fan from Malaysia.
December 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie Loo
Thanks Stephanie. Never give up hope. One of these days, perhaps. On a weirdly related note, we had a query this week about the film rights to WILLOW FROST, which was pleasantly surprising, so you never know. :)
January 8, 2015 | Registered CommenterJamie
I wanna see it on a movie tho! I think it would be a good one. Please make it 😹 i read this for my english class and i liked it even though im not a fan of books
January 15, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterdear jamie
Thank you Gabrielie!
January 19, 2015 | Registered CommenterJamie
I work in Hollywood. Hollywood is cyclical. This flood of superheroes will subside. And Hollywood is growing, far beyond its geographical history. Filmmakers, financiers and yes, even studios far aflung will one day give HOTEL its closeup. It just takes the right person to see and love it. And budgets? We have the technology. We just need the creative minds to artfully & fiscally adapt. So, HOTEL fans, hold hope. Your day will come.
January 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRick

I never know what book I am going to purchase when I browse through the many books in a book store. Normally a book just catches my interest and I read a few lines and the book will either catch me or will not.

"Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter And Sweet" was my first introduction to one of your novels. ... You got me! Could not wait to purchase your other book "Songs of Willow Frost". I was so disappointed that you have not written any more novels.

You have a gift of entertaining and educating your reader to the Chinese customs and how difficult it is to just "fit in".

It would be a shame not to have one of your novels on the "silver screen". I have seen some excellent foreign films that have blended English with foreign captions and if the subject is good .. Your novels certainly fit that requirement .. The viewers have no problem letting the movie unfold before them.

I will be anxiously waiting for your next novel and hopefully a movie of one of your characters.
Thank you - Henry
February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJammie Frost
Thanks J - I have a new book in the works. Hoping to finish it up this month :)
February 12, 2015 | Registered CommenterJamie
Sorry to hear about the uninformed Hollywood response to Hotel. I suppose you've already discussed the possibility of going with HBO or Showtime. They seem to be more inclined to go with the vehicles that the conventional Hollywood types balk at. I still hope there is some possibility for a production.
March 5, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Duller

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