Movie Feature

Producer Ken Mok lives the dream in 'Joy'

By Zaki JufriMovies - 07 January 2016 3:24 PM | Updated 08 January 2016

Producer Ken Mok lives the dream in 'Joy'

Although the movie ‘Joy’ is about an American woman overcoming the odds to achieve her dreams, producer Ken Mok says that the movie is an “Asian film” in a lot of ways.

“It is multi-generational; Joy lives with her parents and grandmother. She loves and sacrifices herself for her family. She believes in hard work, determination and pulling herself up by her own bootstraps,” Mok told inSing over the phone from his office in Los Angeles.

“It is not the American Dream anymore, it is the Asian Dream – where people use their own resources to make something of themselves. I think this story speaks to that. As an Asian-American, I relate to this story as the movie’s themes is close to my Asian values,” said the producer.

The 55-year-old is the producer of writer-director David O. Russell’s latest comedy-drama ‘Joy’, which stars Jennifer Lawrence as a struggling single mother who founded a business empire after inventing a self-wringing mop. The movie is loosely based on the life of multimillionaire mogul Joy Mangano.

Ken Mok with Joy Mangano at the 'Joy' premiere in New York | Photo: Getty


Whether it is creating shows about ordinary people aspiring to be fashion models (‘America’s Next Top Model’), a top NASCAR driver (‘Changing Lanes’), a professional wrestler (‘WWE Tough Enough’) or an inventor (‘Made In The USA’), the underdog or the undiscovered talent is what draws Mok to all his projects.

“I’m a ‘glass is half-full’ kind of person and have a very positive outlook on life. So I am naturally attracted to and inspired by stories of underdogs overcoming obstacles to make it in life,” he explained.

It is through the show ‘Made In The USA’ in 2005 that the idea for ‘Joy’ was birthed. The real-life Joy Mangano was one of the judges of the reality TV programme that sees budding inventors pitching their ideas to be sold on television shopping giant HSN, the channel that gave her big break.

“We hit it off right away. She is a down-to-earth, seemingly normal housewife from a small suburb in New York City. One day during lunch, I asked Joy how did she go from housewife to becoming this successful businesswoman with all these amazing products. She told me this crazy story and I immediately knew that it’s a feature film, and a story that needs to be told,” Mok recalled.


To Mok, ‘Joy’ is the ultimate self-empowerment film and a dream project. 

“You couldn’t ask for a better team than Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and David O. Russell to bring this story to life,” Mok beamed.

He added, “David is such a great writer and director that actors all just want to work with him. He writes such vivid, real and fresh characters, and that is very enticing to actors.”

It is Russell’s decision to tell a different kind of story in ‘Joy’; one inspired by not just Mangano but also all the daring women he had read about.


“I am fascinated by the kind of spirit that drives someone to start a venture out of their home and try to break a new path for themselves and their families.  So many women throughout history have felt dead ended and had to carve out their own opportunities,” Russell said.

“David is such an artist and auteur. When he came on-board, all of us were there to support his vision of the film,” Mok said.

Mangano, who also served as executive producer on the film, is clearly overwhelmed by it. “It is very hard to assimilate all of it, because it is surreal,” Mangano told Vogue of her first time watching ‘Joy’.

“To have somebody make a movie out of your life is something but to have such incredible talent attached to the movie and Jennifer Lawrence play you; that is a dream come true,” Mok explained.

"Jennifer has what people call, 'it'. Her performances are so authentic and honest. She is not afraid to be vulnerable. There is always something interesting in her performances and that is such a rare thing," he said.


With ‘Joy’ in the can and on screens, the question on everyone’s mind now is, “Will there be a Cycle 23 for ‘America’s Next Top Model’?”

Ken Mok (third from right) with Tyra Banks at the 'America's Next Top Model' Cycle 22 premiere party in July 2015 | Photo: Getty 

Mok who is ‘Top Model’ executive producer/showrunner says that he is still in the midst of discussion for the show’s 23rd cycle and is not able to reveal any details. It is reported that the show is
pitched to cable and streaming outlets following its finale run on CW last December. 

“Fans of ‘Top Model’ all over the world should smile because this is not the end of the series. There is a future for the show and with fingers crossed, we should be able to make an announcement very soon,” Mok revealed.

‘Joy’ opens in cinemas 7 January 2016

Movie Photos

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  • Rated
    PG13 /
    Comedy, Drama
  • Language
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