Chinese Star Wins Lead in Disney’s ‘Mulan’

The Forbidden Kingdom

Released in 1998, Disney’s animated feature Mulan was based on a Chinese legend and followed the daughter of a famed warrior who impersonated a man in order to lead her people into battle. A live-action adaptation has been in development for a while now and gained momentum when director Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife) came on board earlier this year.

Caro says she intends to make “a big, girly martial arts epic. It will be extremely muscular and thrilling and entertaining and moving.” Now the lead role has been cast. Liu Yifei (also known as Crystal Liu) will star as Mulan, according to Deadline.

Born in China, she spent four years in the U.S. during her youth before returning to China and becoming a veteran of both the big and small screen, moving from supporting roles to lead performances. She appeared in The Forbidden Kingdom (top photo), starring Jackie Chan and Jet Li, back in 2008.

The actress most recently starred in Once Upon a Time, which opened in the U.S. this past summer, and war drama The Chinese Widow (watch trailer below), which just opened overseas.

In addition, Liu has been a recording artist for years and so should be able to do her own singing, which the new film may feature as in the original animated production. Story-wise, Mulan will combine “the story of the ballad of the legendary Hua Mulan with the original film.” Reportedly, Disney is now targeting a theatrical release in 2019.