Disney names Chinese actress Liu Yifei as lead in live-action version of 'Mulan', calming fears of whitewashed cast

Disney names Chinese actress Liu Yifei as lead in live-action version of 'Mulan', calming fears of whitewashed cast

Let's hope the rumours of a white male lead also die a quiet death

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The 30-year-old has starred in both Chinese and Hollywood productions
Photo: AP

Disney has enlisted a Chinese actress to star in the title role of its live-action version of Mulan.

They didn’t go with any of our suggestions, but we were pleased to hear that Liu Yifei, who also goes by Crystal Liu, will play the legendary Chinese warrior in the 2019 epic.

On Wednesday, Walt Disney Studios also announced  that Niki Caro, who directed Whale RiderNorth Country and Disney’s McFarland, USA, will helm the project. Jason Reed, Chris Bender and Jake Weiner will produce. House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon producer Bill Kong will be executive producer.


Disney didn't go with our suggestion for the lead character, but we have lots of ideas as to who else should appear in Mulan. Hello, Godfrey Gao


The upcoming film is inspired by the Ballad of Mulan, in which a young woman impersonates a man to take her father’s place in the army, and Disney’s 1998 musical adaptation of the poem, which grossed more than US$120 million at the domestic box office and US$304 million worldwide. Music from the animated film also earned an Academy Award nomination.

Well known in China as a model and singer, the 30-year-old Yifei has appeared in The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Outcast with Nicolas Cage. She also stars in this year’s Mandarin-language fantasy adventure movie Once Upon a Time, which is not to be confused with ABC’s fantasy series that also featured a Mulan character played by Jamie Chung.


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The studio searched for a year to find the right Mulan and considered nearly 1,000 candidates for the role.

While several studios have faced stark criticism for whitewashing their films, Yifei’s racially sensitive casting was lauded on Twitter, much like the studio’s casting of a Middle Eastern actor for the lead role in its live-action Aladdin earlier this year. Many also voiced support for the diverse, star-studded cast of Disney’s live-action The Lion King adaptation, announced earlier this month.

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