Disney has found a lot of success with its live-action adaptations of its classic animated films with Beauty and the Beast currently sitting as the highest-grossing film of 2017 and adaptations of The Lion King, Aladdin, and Dumbo in the pipeline among others. The studio is also making strides with its cultural awareness, being careful not to whitewash roles featuring non-white characters.
With that in mind, the studio has cast Chinese actress Liu Yifei, who also sometimes goes by “Crystal Liu”, to play the lead in their live-action Mulan directed by Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife). Per THR, “A team of casting directors visited five continents and saw nearly 1,000 candidates for the role, which requires credible martial arts skills, the ability to speak English and the most ineffable requirement of all: star quality.” Although Liu may not be a household name in the U.S. yet, she certainly will be by the time the Disney marketing machine is finished. Over in China, she recently starred in the fantasy romance, Once Upon a Time, which earned $82.3 million. Liu’s other credits include the action flicks The Forbidden Kingdom and The Assassins.
It will be interesting to see who Disney casts in the other major roles, specifically the male lead Shang and the villainous Shan-Yu. There’s also the role of Mushu, Mulan’s dragon/guardian, and if that character carries over, I assume they’ll go for a celebrity voice similar to how they’ve cast Will Smith for the Genie in Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin.
Although no start date has been announced yet, the studio is reportedly eyeing a 2019 release date, so we’ll likely hear more casting announcements in the near future. As for Liu, we wish her all the best playing such an unforgettable character, and I’m very curious to see what Caro does with her adaptation of the terrific animated movie.