Get ready to return to Han Dynasty China when Disney’s spectacular reimagination of Mulan arrives in Cineworld in 2020.
The House of Mouse has been killing it at the box office with their re-staging of classic tales such as The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Dumbo and The Lion King. And Mulan is next on the list to get the live-action treatment.
The 1998 Disney animation was inspired by the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, following the eponymous female warrior as she takes her elderly father’s place in the army to defeat the invading Hun forces.
The new live-action movie is directed by award-winning film-maker Niki Caro (Whale Rider; The Zookeeper’s Wife) and appears to making some exciting changes to the original template.
The most interesting – and exciting – update is that Mulan will be fronted by an all-Chinese cast brimming with incredible talent, featuring several famous faces and giving a platform to some rising stars in the process. Here are just some of the all-star Chinese cast you can spot.
Yifei Liu – Mulan
Although we’ll never forget Ming-Na Wen’s (alongside Lea Salonga’s spine-tingling singing) vocal performance 20 years ago, the role of the eponymous warrior now goes to Chinese-American actor Yifei Liu.
Originally named An Feng, Liu was raised in Wuhan, Hobei before moving to New York when she was 10 where she trained in singing, dancing, and piano while also working as a model.
After returning to China and graduating from Beijing’s Film Academy in 2006, she quickly rose to stardom by appearing in hit TV Wuxia shows Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils – earning her the nickname "Fairy Sister" – Chinese Paladin, and Return of the Condor Heroes. (Wuxia is defined as a genre of Chinese fiction focusing on characters with super-human abilities.)
Since then, Liu has acted in The Forbidden Kingdom alongside Jackie Chan, and The Assassins, which saw her win a Best Actress award. And this isn’t even mentioning her international music career – which weirdly includes her performance of the theme song to Japanese anime Powerpuff Girls Z.
Combine her acting and singing abilities with her proficiency in martial arts, and there’s no doubt she’s an excellent choice to take on the mantle of Mulan.
Yoson An – Chen Honghui
Whereas the original film saw Mulan develop a romantic relationship with Captain Li Shang (BD Wong), this latest adaptation introduces new character Chen Honghui, a fellow soldier, as Mulan’s love interest.
Born in Portuguese Macau, Yoson An moved to Auckland, New Zealand, at a young age and is a relative newcomer on the acting scene, getting his breakthrough role in 2013 with Ghost Bride. Since then, he’s begun to make a mark for himself in blockbusters The Meg and Mortal Engines, and was last year seen in Dead Lucky (trailer below).
More interestingly, he appeared in devilish Kiwi black comedy series Fresh Eggs alongside Xana Tang, who we’ll also see in Mulan as new character Hua Xiu – Mulan’s sister.
Li Gong – Xian Lang
Another fresh twist in this version comes in the form of a new villain. Instead of the original film’s ruthless Hun warlord Shan Yu (voiced by Miguel Ferrer), the new antagonist is set to be a powerful witch named Xian Lang (whose name roughly translates as fairy wolf), played by veteran actor Li Gong.
According to an interview with Gong, Xian Lang will have a far more significant role in this film than Shan Yu did in the original Mulan. Making her debut in 1988’s Red Sorghum, Gong has carved her incredible legacy with The Story of Qui Ju (winning her two Best Actress awards), Raise the Red Lantern, Curse of the Golden Flower, Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 and in the multi-Oscar-winning Memoirs of a Geisha, to name just a few of her accolades.
Donnie Yen – Commander Tung
Replacing Li Shang as the army leader is Commander Tung, who’s set to act as a mentor figure to Mulan in the upcoming film. He’ll be played by international action legend Donnie Yen, regarded as one of the most accomplished martial arts stars of all time.
Best known for his leading role in the acclaimed martial arts series Ip Man (which has a fourth instalment releasing later this year), the Hong Kong actor, director, producer, choreographer, stuntman and multi-time world wushu (the Chinese term for martial arts) champion first made his mark with Drunken Tai Chi and Tiger Cage. Other notable roles include Once Upon a Time in China II and Hero, in which he starred alongside Jet Li.
More recently, he co-starred in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as the blind, Force-channelling Chirrut Imwe, a member of the religious sect the Guardian of the Whills.
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Jet Li – The Emperor
In the 1998 movie the Emperor was voiced by The Karate Kid’s Pat Morita. However, the Emperor in the upcoming adaptation will be portrayed by another martial arts legend in the form of the magnificent Jet Li.
Having trained in the art of wushu from a young age, Li went on to win 15 gold medals when he was a teenager and was reportedly asked by American President Richard Nixon himself to be his personal bodyguard.
Li first made a name for himself in Chinese martial arts films Shaolin Temple, Once Upon a Time in China and Fist of Fury remake Fist of Legend, before he made his Hollywood debut in Lethal Weapon 4 in 1998, beating the hell out of stars Mel Gibson and Danny Glover.
He made further Hollywood appearances in the likes of Romeo Must Die and Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables series. Given Li’s background, can we expect this Emperor to bust out some fighting skills?
Jason Scott Lee – Bori Khan
Born in America of Chinese descent, Lee is often mistakenly associated with late martial arts icon Bruce Lee. However, the two men are completely unrelated.
Instead, Jason Scott rose to prominence portraying his namesake in the 1993 drama Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (see below), and also portrayed Mowgli in the 1994 adaptation of The Jungle Book. Random fact: The Original Mighty Morphin Red Power Ranger was named "Jason Lee Scott" played by Austin St. John in honour of Jason Scott Lee.
In Mulan, he plays Bori Khan, a fearsome warrior collaborating with the evil Xian Lang, and will no doubt turn out to be Mulan’s nemesis.
Mulan is released on 27th March 2020, so tweet us @Cineworld with your thoughts on the cast.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.