Disney’s adding more star power to Mulan with the additions of Jet Li and Gong Li. The live-action remake of Mulan is the latest effort from Disney to recycle their animated tales in a new light. This formula has so far proven to be very financially lucrative for the studio, spurning them on to develop even more projects of this ilk. Although the live-action Mulan was delayed to 2020 earlier this year, the casting process is well underway now.
Casting began late last year, when Liu Yifei was confirmed to play Mulan in the live-action retelling. However, she was the only cast member officially onboard for director Niki Caro’s film until yesterday, when Donnie Yen joined the cast as a Commander in the Chinese army. Now, the film has further cast its villain, along with the key role of the Chinese emperor.
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THR has learned that both Jet Li and Gong Li are onboard for Mulan now. Jet Li is a major action star thanks to his martial arts background, which has made him one of his home country’s biggest draws internationally. He will play the emperor of China, previously voiced by the late Pat Morita in Disney’s animated Mulan. Gong Li is another seasoned veteran of the Chinese filmmaking industry, and is now set to play Mulan‘s villain – a powerful witch. In addition, Chinese-Vietnamese actress Xana Tang has joined the cast as Mulan’s sister, a new role created for the film.
The addition of Jet Li is an impressive get for Disney. Between him and Yen, the studio is clearly looking to make sure Mulan will have international appeal and is casting big stars to guarantee just that. Considering his previous roles, maybe this version of China’s emperor will be a bit more hands-on and give Jet an opportunity to utilize his martial arts talents.
While Jet is the bigger name, the role for Gong is perhaps the more notable one. Her casting indicates a major departure from the animated film, as the villain there was Shan Yu. The leader of the Huns was an imposing and purposefully villainous looking man. Changing the villain to be a woman should create a brand new dynamic for the live-action take. Really, this is the latest example of how Disney’s straying from their animated film with the live-action rendition.
Between switching to a female villain, giving Mulan a sister, and bringing on a male mentor, the live-action Mulan is shaping up to be significantly different from its predecessor, in multiple respects. There was also previously talk of Mulan not featuring any songs (as in, musical numbers) either, so Caro’s take could wind up being quite different from the Mouse House’s previous iteration. Just how different it will actually be remains to be seen, of course.
MORE: Live-Action Mulan Will Include Musical Elements