Disney has finally found their leading lady for the live-action adaptation of the 1998 animated classic Mulan, with Chinese actress Liu Yifei coming aboard as the title character. The actress, who has also been known as Crystal Liu, has been selected after a year-long, worldwide casting search was conducted by the studio, which came after Disney promised an all-Asian cast back in October 2016. It seems that the studio is living up to that promise, but this new report reveals that it was quite an exhaustive search to find the right actress to play Mulan.
This report reveals that Disney enlisted five different casting directors who scoured the globe, who visited five different continents and saw over 1,000 actresses for the role. Among the primary requirements for the role were demonstrable martial arts skills, proficiency in the English language along with that intangible “star quality” that the studio has found in Liu Yifei. In order to be culturally accurate, the studio wanted to focus on an “ethnically Chinese young woman” to play Hua Mulan, and it seems they have found the perfect package in Liu Yifei, since she was born in China but has spent a considerable amount of time in America as well.
Liu Yifei, 30, was born in Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China, and she started out modeling at the young age of 8 while also being trained in singing, dancing and playing the piano. She moved to Queens, New York with her mother at the age of 10, spending four years in the Big Apple, before returning to China in 2002, when she was accepted into the prestigious Performance Institute of Beijing Film Academy, but before even graduating from the Academy, her career was off and running, making her feature film debut in 2004 with Love of May and starring in the TV series Chinese Paladin, based on The Legend of Sword and Fairy video games. She has also starred in English-language movies like 2008’s Forbidden Kingdom alongside Jackie Chan, Outcast alongside Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen and Ip Man 3 alongside Donnie Yen. Since the Mulan remake starts shooting in January 2018, we could be seeing many more casting announcements soon.
After director Ang Lee passed on Mulan last October, the studio re-focused its efforts and landed director Niki Caro this past February, who is best known for directing Whale Rider. While no details on this adaptation were given, it will be based on the original 1998 animated hit Mulan, with Ming Na-Wen voicing the title character and a supporting voice cast that also included Eddie Murphy, June Foray, Miguel Ferrer, Harvey Fierstein and B.D. Wong. The original movie was a global hit, earning $120.6 million domestic and $304.3 million worldwide.
Disney announced at the D23 Expo this summer that the release date will be shifted. While the studio had originally planned on releasing the movie next year, Mulan was pushed to 2019, with the studio pushing Mulan out of its planned November 2, 2018 to an unspecified release in 2019. The studio has already set two unspecified movies for release on November 8, 2019 and December 20, 2019, so it could likely be one of those projects. Known in China as “Fairy Sister,” Liu Yifei is one of the most popular actresses of her generation, who most recently starred in the fantasy adventure Once Upon a Time, which earned $82.3 million in the Middle Kingdom. The Hollywood Reporter was the first to break the news on Lui Yifei’s casting in Disney’s Mulan, which will hopefully be the first of several casting reports from this highly-anticipated movie.