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Jon M. Chu

Jon M. Chu

American film director, producer, and screenwriter
Jon M. Chu
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American film director, producer, and screenwriter
Is Film director Screenwriter Dancer Choreographer Film producer
From United States of America
Type Dancing Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 2 November 1979, Palo Alto, Santa Clara County, California, USA
Age 41 years
Star sign Scorpio
Mother: Ruth Chu
Father: Lawrence Chu
Spouse: Kristin Hodge
Children: Willow ChuJonathan Heights Chu
Pinewood High School, Los Altos, California 1994-1998
University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television, Los Angeles, California 1998-2003
The details


Jon M. Chu (born November 2, 1979) is an American award-winning filmmaker, best known for directing the movies such as Step Up 2: The Streets (2008), Step Up 3D (2010), Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2012), Hasbro franchises G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) and Jem and the Holograms (2015), and Crazy Rich Asians(2018). Considered a breakthrough in Asian-American cinema, Crazy Rich Asians is the first film by a major Hollywood studio to feature a majority cast of Asian descent in a modern setting since Wayne Wang's 1993 drama The Joy Luck Club, starring Kieu Chinh and Tsai Chin.

Early life and education

Jon M. Chu was born as Jonathan Murray Chu on November 2, 1979, in Palo Alto, California. He grew up in the nearby Los Altos, where he attended Pinewood High School, graduating in 1998. He regularly participated in school plays and musicals and also always directed and filmed his class's video.

His mother, Ruth Chu, was born in Taiwan and his father, Lawrence C. C. Chu, is a well-known chef in Los Altos. His parents own Chef Chu's, a popular Chinese restaurant in Los Altos. Chu is the youngest of five children. 

Chu began making movies in fifth grade when his mother gave him a video camera to record the family vacations. He instead began making science fiction thrillers and murder mysteries starring his siblings. He followed through his passion for filmmaking and enrolled at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television (1998–2003). At the USC, he won several awards including the Princess Grace Award, the Dore Schary Award presented by the Anti-Defamation League, the Jack Nicholson directing award, and the Kodak Student Filmmaker Award. He was recognized as an honoree for the IFP/West program Project: Involve.


As part of his schoolwork, Chu directed such short films as Silent Beats (2001), When the Kids Are Away (2002), and Gwai Lo: The Little Foreigner (2002). Gwai Lo: The Little Foreigner won the "Best Asian American Student Filmmaker - West Coast" award at the 2002 DGA Student Awards (Director's Guild of America). When the Kids Are Away impressed Hollywood and he was signed to William Morris Agency and attached to several high-profile projects. The film also impressed Steven Spielberg's wife Kate Capshaw and she recommended him to the director himself.

Shortly after his graduation, Chu was hired by Sony Pictures to reinvent the musical Bye Bye Birdie. He said of the opportunity, "I got to meet some of the biggest young female stars in the industry who were interested in playing Kim McAfee in the musical. People such as Lindsay LohanKatie HolmesScarlett JohanssonKirsten DunstBrittany SnowJennifer love HewittBritney Spears, etc. It was definitely a crazy time." However, Sony had to abandon the project due to budget concerns.

The first feature film Chu directed was Step Up 2: The Streets (2008), starring Briana Evigan and Robert Hoffman. The film, written by Toni Ann Johnson, is a sequel to 2006's Step Up (directed by Anne Fletcher and starring Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan) and the second installment in the Step Up film series. Chu also directed the music video for Cassie Ventura's song Is It You, which was part of the original soundtrack for the film.

Two years later, in 2010, Chu directed next in the Step Up series, Step Up 3D—a 3D dance film starring Rick MalambriAdam Sevani, and Sharni Vinson. The film premiered in Hollywood at the El Capitan Theater on August 2, 2010, and was subsequently released in the United States on August 6, 2010, by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, through conventional 2D and 3D formats. It was the second movie to feature the Dolby Surround 7.1 audio format theatrically, after Toy Story 3. The film grossed $15.8 million in its opening weekend, the lowest opening of the first three films in the series, but went on to become the biggest box office of the series, grossing $159.2 million.

In 2011, Chu directed Justin Bieber: Never Say Never—a 3-D concert film centering on Canadian singer Justin Bieber. The film follows Bieber for 10 days counting down to what is considered his biggest performance, on August 31, 2010, in Madison Square Garden, New York, which sold out in 22 minutes. The following year, he directed the music video for Bieber's song Beauty and a Beat, which features American singer/rapper Nicki Minaj. In 2013, he directed the sequel to Never Say Never, titled Justin Bieber's Believe. The documentary continues to focus on Bieber's rise to international fame as he embarks on his Believe tour.

In 2013, Chu was awarded the Visionary Award by East West Players (EWP), the longest-running theater of color in the United States, for his contributions to the Asian Pacific American (APA) community.

In 2018, Chu directed his best work to date: Crazy Rich Asians with Constance WuHenry Golding, and Michelle Yeoh. The film, based on the 2013 novel of the same title by Kevin Kwan, follows a Chinese-American professor who travels to meet her boyfriend's family and is surprised to discover they are among the richest in Singapore. A major critical and commercial success, the film grossed over $238 million on a budget of $30 million, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy of the 2010s. The film received several accolades including the "Asian Blockbuster Award" at the 2018 International Film Festival & Awards Macao awards, a nomination for "Impact Award" at the 2019 Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle Awards, and a nomination for "Best Comedy Film" at the 2019 Denver Film Critics Society awards. Two sequels, based on the novel's follow-ups China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, are currently in development—both being directed by Chu.

Chu is also a dancer and a part of a dance crew named AC/DC or Adam/Chu Dance Crew. His love for the art of dance is evident in many of his works. When asked "Why do all of your films have dance?", he responded, "I don't know why. It seems so obvious. But there's something about the dancers that motivate me the most. I don't know if it's just dance, but I do think that the dancers are amazing artists, and every time I meet a new dancer, that triggers something in my brain, and I'm more creative than I could ever be. When I feel that creativity burst, I go with it." 

In 2010, Chu directed the online series The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, commonly called The LXD, which won Advertising Age’s Media Vanguard Award for Outstanding Web Series. Chu also received the 2011 Digital Pioneer Emmy Award for LXD. Chu has said of the series that he was inspired to create the series by Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Smooth Criminal" music videos and by the dancers he met while filming the movie Step Up 2: The Streets.

Recently, Chu has finished directing In the Heights, based on the Broadway musical of the same name for Warner Bros. The film starring Lin-Manuel MirandaStephanie Beatriz, and Anthony Ramos is slated to release on June 18, 2021. The previous date of June 26, 2020, had to be moved due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chu's other two recent directorial projects include: 

  • Triage (TV Movie, screenplay by David Cornue)
  • Untitled Thai Cave Rescue Project (co-direction with Nattawut Poonpiriya)
  • Both are currently in pre-production.

Personal life

In 2018, Chu married Kristin Hodge, an art director by profession. They have a daughter, Willow Chu (born in 2017) and a son, Jonathan Heights Chu (born in 2019). The son's middle name comes from In the Heights, which Chu was in the middle of directing at the time of his birth.


Year Film Director Producer Writer Notes 
2001 Silent Beats Yes Yes Yes Short film;
also sound and production designer 
2002 When the Kids Are Away Yes Yes Yes Short film 
Gwai Lo: The Little Foreigner Yes Yes Yes 
2008 Step Up 2: The Streets Yes No No Directorial debut 
2010 Step Up 3D Yes No No  
2011 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Yes No No  
2012 Step Up Revolution No Executive No  
2013 G.I. Joe: Retaliation Yes No No  
Dear Mr. Watterson No Associate No  
Justin Bieber's Believe Yes No No  
2014 Step Up: All In No Executive No  
2015 Jem and the Holograms Yes Yes No  
2016 Now You See Me 2 Yes No No  
2018 Crazy Rich Asians Yes No No  
2019 Step Up: Year of the Dance No Yes No  
Ken Jeong: You Complete Me, Ho Yes Yes No  
2021 In the Heights Yes No No  


Year Title Director Executive
Writer Notes 
2010–2011 The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers Yes Yes Yes Creator;
Also editor 
2019–present Good Trouble Yes Yes No  
2020–present Home Before Dark Yes Yes No  
To cite the article
We strive for accuracy and fairness. If you notice a mistake, please contact us. Below the article, you will find links to the references used.
Article Title: Jon M. Chu: American film director, producer, and screenwriter - Biography and Life
Author(s): PeoplePill.com Editorial Staff
Website Title: PeoplePill
Publisher: PeoplePill
Article URL: https://peoplepill.com/people/jon-m-chu/
Publish Date: 22 Dec 2016
Date Accessed: 31 Oct 2020
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