It was originally called The Joy F*** Club.
“It was a loving homage to The Joy Luck Club, which was a key moment for the writers and me,” explains Joy Ride director Adele Lim of the seminal 1993 drama and first major Hollywood movie to feature an all-Asian cast. “We all kind of fell in love with the title, but if you use it, apparently you’re going to get sued by everyone.”
Still, that early risqué version should give you a clue about the tone of Joy Ride. Penned by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Teresa Hsiao from a story conceived with Lim, the film follows four Asian American friends (Ashley Park, Sherry Cola, Sabrina Wu and Stephanie Hsu) on a sex-, drugs- and K-pop-filled jaunt across China to find the birth mother of Park’s lawyer Audrey, who was adopted by white parents in the U.S.
The title was changed, but the raunch was never contested. “When we wrote the movie, we wrote it for us,” says Lim, the Crazy Rich Asians and Raya and the Last Dragon scribe who makes her directorial debut with Joy Ride. “We wrote a movie we wish we had in our twenties, and we fully expected at some point in the process that a grownup was going to come in and say, ‘This is too much. You might need to cut the [raunchier elements] by 50%… But nobody ever had that conversation with us. If anything, they said, ‘We love what you’re going for. Lean harder into it.’” (It had to help that two of the film’s producers were Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who’ve made their own artform out of the R-rated comedy.)
There were points where the cast couldn’t believe what they were getting away with.