Disney has found a lead for its live-action Mulan.
Following a worldwide search, the studio announced Wednesday that it has cast Chinese actress Liu Yifei (a.k.a. Crystal Liu) as Hua Mulan. Stemming from Disney’s trend of adapting its library of animated classics as live-action feature films, this new take on the warrior woman sees a young woman disguise herself as a man to take her father’s place in the army against the backdrop of fifth-century China.
Liu, nicknamed “Fairy Sister” in China, is one of her native country’s most popular actresses. Since breaking out in various television shows in the 2000s, she’s appeared in films like The Forbidden Kingdom (with Jackie Chan and Jet Li), White Vengeance, Outcast (with Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen), Ip Man 3 (with Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson), and this year’s The Chinese Window (with Emile Hirsch).
Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife) will direct this new take on Mulan, which is inspired by both the 1998 animated film and the centuries-old folktale. The film is based on a script initially penned by Elizabeth Martin and Lauren Hynek and rewritten by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
“The budget and the location and the story [are] offering such scope to me for [an] incredible, muscular piece of girly martial arts extravaganza in China. And I can’t wait,” Caro said in March. “I’ve got my little girl, she’s 9,” the filmmaker added. “We’re going to start learning mixed martial arts in preparation.”
While Caro initially said “we’ve never talked about songs” for the film, Disney’s president of production, Sean Bailey, later clarified to EW that Mulan is “not currently intended to be [a musical],” but “nothing is off the table.”
Jason Reed, Chris Bender, and Jake Weiner will produce Mulan, and Bill Kong will executive produce.
The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report the news.