Disney casts Chinese actress Liu Yifei in live-action ‘Mulan’, bucking Hollywood’s whitewashing trend
Disney has enlisted Chinese actress Crystal Liu Yifei to star in the title role of its live-action version of “Mulan.”
Liu will play the legendary Chinese warrior in the 2019 epic, Walt Disney Studios announced Wednesday.
Niki Caro, who directed Whale Rider, North Country and Disney’s McFarland, USA, will helm the project, Disney said, and 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.
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 Liu has appeared in The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Outcast with Nicolas Cage. She also stars in this year’s Putonghua-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.
The South China Morning Post picked Liu in April as one of five Chinese actresses who deserved a shot at the role.
The studio searched for a year to find the right Mulan and considered nearly 1,000 candidates for the role.
While several Hollywood studios have faced stark criticism for whitewashing Asian characters out of their films, Liu’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.