Disney just recruited three major Chinese stars for its live-action reboot of Mulan. Gong Li, Jet Li and Donnie Yen join star Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, who is playing the film’s title character.
Gong Li is confirmed to be playing the villain of the film, a powerful witch, according to THR. This seems to be a departure from the original 1998 film, in which the villain was Shan Yu, leader of the Huns. Li is one of China’s biggest stars but also one of the biggest international actresses in the world. She made her debut in 1988’s Red Sorghum and has since starred in The Story of Qiu Ju, for which she won Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival, Raise the Red Lantern, Curse of the Golden Flower, Farewell My Concubine and, most recently, the Cannes hit Coming Home. The 52-year-old actress has also performed in English-language features, including Memoirs of a Geisha, Miami Vice and Hannibal Rising.
Chinese legend and martial arts master Jet Li is in the final talks to play the Emperor of China who orders the mobilization of troops, demanding one male from each household to fight, thus prompting the heroine Mulan to volunteer in place of her father, disguising herself as a man and fighting in his place. Li has starred in native mega-hits like Shaolin Temple and Once Upon a Time in China, as well as in major Hollywood films like 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and The Expendables series.
Yen is playing Mulan’s mentor, Commander Tung, per THR. This will be the second collaboration between Yen and Disney, who recently starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story with Felicity Jones. Yen is one of the biggest names in action in his native China, if you couldn’t guess that from his incredible talent in Rogue One. He is best known for his Ip Man series.
Chinese-Vietnamese actress Xana Tang has also been cast in the film as Mulan’s sister, another character created specifically for the live-action version. Tang’s background is primarily in TV, with roles in New Zealand’s Filthy Rich, and Australia’s The Letdown and Dead Lucky.
Mulan will be directed by Niki Caro (North Country, The Zookeeper’s Wife), and produced by Chris Bender, Jason Reed and Jake Weiner. The film is set to begin shooting in China and New Zealand soon, but will not arrive in theaters until March 27, 2020, as its release was recently delayed.