Why Thanuja Ananthan Turned Down Crazy Rich Asians

Yes, she really did say no to a role in the hit Hollywood movie!

Photography: Edmund Lee

There’s no dimming the enthusiasm in Thanuja Ananthan’s voice as she speaks of her largest acting gig to date in Anak Merdeka, a successful television series based on the 1980s, in which she played an athlete. “It was a three-month project and I’d wake up at 5am and train with a coach till 8am, before going on set. You wouldn’t recognise me as I became four tones darker with no makeup. I was fit as a fiddle though and it was amazing! I want to do roles that are challenging – roles that will allow me to grow as an actor and person,” she gushes.

Her dedication to the art is precisely why she’s turned down countless roles that have come her way, even a particular one that turned out to be a huge Hollywood hit: Crazy Rich Asians. “Beauty queens and supermodels always get the role of having to steal someone’s husband, or are expected to prance around in a miniskirt throughout the series. There’s always tons of makeup and big hair – although, I already have the hair going for me so they can save cost on that,” she jokes.


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“Anuja (her twin sister) and I were actually offered the role of the twins in Crazy Rich Asians. I said no because I didn’t want to be projected just holding hands with my sister, wearing skimpy clothing and looking pretty without dialogue. I’m not judging anyone at all – but personally, it wouldn’t have worked for me. It would have been a real disgrace to my acting career and values. After watching the movie, despite my girlfriends telling me how stupid I was for turning down a Hollywood gig, I was glad I did. That wasn’t how I wanted to be seen in Hollywood.”

This first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Her World.