Hustlers star Constance Wu: 'I feel like the luckiest girl in the world'
Hustlers star Constance Wu says the story on friendship was important to her
Constance Wu is always looking for scripts that "express heart", which is why she chose Hustlers as her follow-up to the 2018 hit romcom Crazy Rich Asians.
It has given the 37-year-old Asian-American actress her second meaty lead in a high-profile Hollywood movie, one that has again won over critics and fans.
Currently showing here, Hustlers, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, is based on the real-life story of a group of strippers who scammed hundreds of patrons by drugging and robbing them when the bottom fell out of the stock market and their work dried up.
Wu plays Destiny, a novice dancer mentored by Jennifer Lopez's character Ramona, the den mother who teaches her that in a broken system, it is hustle or be hustled.
She said in our interview at the Fairmont Royal York hotel during the Toronto International Film Festival: "I really responded to how it humanised all these girls and this profession that is really fun and flashy, but also has a lot of heart. That is why it was important to me."
She never imagined that in her next project she would be pole dancing half-naked.
Wu raved: "But I feel like the luckiest girl in the world, even just to get to work with (Lopez), let alone dance with her. We are just having so much fun celebrating this movie together.
"She's a great person and one of the most caring people I've ever worked with. From her, I learnt how to listen, because she really listened to all the girls and made sure everybody felt cared for on set. I think that is why our set was such an amazingly positive sisterhood of a place. It's because she was our leader."
On Lopez's sexually-charged dance moves, Wu said: "I learnt that you don't need to be embarrassed of your power. Jennifer is somebody who knows how to own a stage. That's a skill.
"A lot of women might become self-conscious doing that. She taught me how to claim and own that, which was a huge lesson for me."
Wu, who has three sisters, said her parents - who emigrated from Taiwan to the US - were not surprised when she took this job.
"So that says a little something about my public persona versus the me my family knows, right? My family is highly academic. Everybody's really clean-cut and straight-laced, and I have always been sort of the outlaw or the clown. They're more surprised if there's a span of time that goes by without me doing anything crazy."
Wu was not nervous about her parents attending the Hustlers premiere and watching it.
"They love me and know it's not me. They know that this is their daughter who is doing what she's loved since she was 10 and they trust me to make choices that are inspired by that.
"I made this choice (Hustlers) not because I wanted to do a sexy movie, but because it was about friendship. The stripping stuff, that's fun, but that wasn't the heart of it for me."
Wu had to go through intense training to seem like a credible pole dancer. There were both private and group lessons, but she went even further.
"I had a pole installed in the middle of my living room. It didn't go great with the decor," she said with a laugh. "And there are like the eight-inch shoes you have to walk around in. I wanted to get used to them, so I'd walk around my house in them."
Wu's image took a beating over a Twitter tantrum she threw in May, when she seemingly dissed her TV sitcom Fresh Off The Boa when it was renewed for a sixth season. Netizens accused her of being an ungrateful diva.
Wu clarified she loves the show, cast and crew, adding: "That one moment of heat wasn't even about the show, it was about me having to give up a project that I had been chasing for a while. It didn't mean that I don't love Fresh Off the Boat.
"It pains me that people misinterpreted it, but I'm really glad it happened, I'm glad to hear people say how they feel about it, because it helps me learn how to become the type of person I want to be. You figure that out by listening to people and trying to be true."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.