Shang-Chi 2 Is Moving Forward Without Its Biggest Star?

Simu Liu says Shang-Chi 2 might not be able to get Michelle Yeoh back.

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

michelle yeoh shang-chi 2
Michelle Yeoh

While Simu Liu was the primary star of Shang-Chi (he played the title character of this Marvel Cinematic Universe film), he certainly wasn’t the biggest. The biggest star was definitely Michelle Yeoh, who was already an acting legend when shooting the film and has now earned a Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once. And Liu admitted in an interview with Collider that they may not be able to “afford Michelle Yeoh” for Shang-Chi 2 because “she’s on top of the world and just the queen of everything.”

On the surface, it might seem silly to imagine that Disney couldn’t afford to pay to bring a major, Oscar-winning actress back for Shang-Chi 2. After all, this is a studio whose Marvel superhero films often earn more than a billion dollars. At the same time, the dwindling box office returns of films like Eternals and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania may cause the studio to be much more cautious about how much they are willing to spend on these films.

It’s also worth noting that, from the very beginning, Marvel has had a talent for getting very talented actors on the cheap. Robert Downey Jr. was infamously paid less than Terrence Howard for the first Iron Man movie, and they didn’t hesitate to replace Howard with Don Cheadle because the studio was too cheap to pay Howard what he was promised for the sequel (he claims he was contracted for $8 million but was only offered $1 million, and this was after receiving $4.5 million for the first film). Long story short: Michelle Yeoh can and should ask for a pay increase to return for Shang-Chi 2, but it’s entirely possible that Marvel would be too cheap to pay the actor what she’s worth.

Michelle Yeoh Stephanie Hsu and Ke Huy Quan Everything Everywhere All at Once
Everything Everywhere All at Once

We should also keep in mind that the script for Shang-Chi 2 may not require Michelle Yeoh’s character. Despite playing Shang-Chi’s aunt, her appearances in the first film were limited because her character is a guardian of Ta Lo, a mystical village that must be protected from the villainous Xu Wenwu (Tony Leung). We have a feeling the sequel will abandon the remote, mystical area to focus on more of its metropolitan setting (much like the Doctor Strange sequel moved away from Kamar-Taj and mostly focused on the hero in New York City and then the multiverse), so there may be no good narrative reason to feature Michelle Yeoh’s character.

Even if the Shang-Chi 2 script called for Michelle Yeoh, and even if Disney was willing to pay to bring her back, she may not be able to appear in the Marvel sequel because she is just too busy to do so. As of this writing, the veteran actress has no less than 10 upcoming films, and three of those are future Avatar movies that will likely take a lot of time to shoot. At the end of the day, we have a feeling Yeoh would rather be at the center of James Cameron’s growing and insanely successful original franchise rather than simply have another brief cameo in a Marvel film that may well wither at the box office (if you don’t think that’s likely to happen, Ant-Man would like a word with you).