The search is over. Disney has finally found its Mulan. Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, has been cast as Mulan in the studio’s upcoming live-action adaptation. Directed by Niki Caro, the film is inspired by both the legendary ballad of Hua Mulan and the 1998 Disney animated classic.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, casting directors saw “nearly 1,000 candidates” across five continents for the role of Mulan, the titular heroine who runs away from home and disguises herself as a man to join the Chinese army in the fight against the oncoming Hun invasion. After a year-long search, Liu was cast.
Earlier this year, Caro described her vision for Mulan as “a big, girly martial arts epic,” so finding an actress with credible martial arts skills, as well as the ability to speak fluent English, was crucial. For Disney, Liu was clearly a girl worth fighting for.
Liu is a well-known actress, model, and singer in China, having acted in English in 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and 2014’s Outcast with Nic Cage. Although Disney has yet to announce if Caro’s adaptation will feature the memorable songs from the animated film à la this year’s box office juggernaut Beauty and the Beast, Liu’s musical talent only adds to her star power.
Based on a Chinese folktale, the original Mulan earned $304.3 million worldwide, and received several Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations. The popular heroine has since adopted the Disney Princess™ moniker, but that doesn’t make her any less badass. She’s even seen a resurgence in popularity thanks to her recurring appearance on Once Upon a Time, where she’s a bisexual warrior played by Jamie Cheung.
But here’s what I really need to know: Who will play Mushu, the tiny dragon with a whole lot of attitude? Will it be a motion-capture situation or nah? These are the thoughts that keep me up at night.
Mulan is slated for release in 2019