According to The Hollywood Reporter, newcomer Yoson An, an ethnically Chinese actor who hails from New Zealand, has been cast to play Chen Honghui opposite Liu Yifei's Mulan in the Disney live action remake of the 1998 animated feature. An will play a military recruit who joins Commander Tung’s (Donnie Yen) unit in this remake of Mulan, both of whom are characters who were not in the original animation.
The producers’ decision to cast Chinese actors in the film has been widely commended on social media. Especially because "an essay from someone who claims to have had access to the Mulan spec script initially purchased by Disney said that the first draft features a '30-something European trader' who helps defend China after falling for Mulan" (Vulture) caused a lot of anger online that the remake might be "whitewashed".
In the past, Hollywood has attracted criticism for casting white actors to play Asian roles. Most recently, Scarlett Johansson played Motoko Kusanagi in the remake of the classic Japanese anime film, Ghost in the Shell (2017). There's also been backlash in casting white actors in films in which a white character makes no sense for the story, for example, Matt Damon in The Great Wall (2016).
The live-action remake already has several big names attached to it, including Jet Li who will play the emperor of China, and Gong Li who will play the story’s antagonist, which is another departure from the 1998 animation that featured a male villain in Shan-Yu voiced by Miguel Ferrer.
The film – due for release on March 27, 2020 – will start shooting in New Zealand and China this August.
This will be the first major role for An, whose previous work includes Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, HBO Asia’s Grace, and the upcoming thriller, The Meg.
5 things we know about Yoson An so far...
1. He is a skilled marital artist, and has a black belt in karate.
2. He speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese.
3. He has been acting since 2012.
4. He is building his own website for short films, which he works on while he's not acting.
5. He is Chinese-born but immigrated to New Zealand at a young age.