Like with Aladdin, many were worried who would get the role of historic Chinese hero Hua Mulan in Disney’s upcoming live adaptation. But the company has announced it’s casting choice: Chinese actress Liu Yifei.
Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Yifei or “Fairy Sister”, had to meet several requirement, including the ability to speak English and martial arts skills. It doesn’t hurt that she’s already a celebrity in China, one of entertainment industry’s biggest markets that every studio is courting, and can sing quite well. She also acted in the English-language films The Forbidden Kingdom and Outcast, so she’s not totally new to American audience. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the search for the perfect Mulan took casting directors to five continents where nearly 1,000 candidates auditioned.
The choice to go with a Chinese actress is a smart one, given again the aforementioned courting of the Chinese box office as well as casting a Chinese woman to play the much-lauded fifth century historical figure. There’s no way the company could have gotten away with casting any other nationality in the role, but casting directors aren’t always sensitive to the inter-play between countries and their various cultures. Let us not forget the casting a Chinese actress to play a Japanese woman in Memoirs of a Geisha, particularly egregious when you remember the film takes place during World War II, when the Japanese army was kidnapping Chinese women to be “pleasure women,” a fact that is still little addressed by Japan to this day.
Niki Caro, best known for the mostly under-whelming The Zookeeper’s Wife, will direct the film. No other cast members have been announced yet, it will be interesting to see who else will be brought on board, especially in our favorite roles.
The live-action Mulan does not currently have a release date but Disney is aiming for sometime in 2019.