Disney has at last cast the actress who will star in the highly-anticipated live-action remake of Mulan. And it’s not Jennifer Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, or Matt Damon.
Instead, Chinese actress Liu Yifei (刘亦菲) will play the titular heroine following a year-long casting search that involved nearly 1,000 candidates in five different continents around the world, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Known by her fans as “Fairy Sister” for her innocent looks and image, Liu became a breakout star in her teens thanks to a series of roles in popular dynastic TV dramas. In the late-2000s she transitioned into film, acting in romcoms, historical epics, and kung-fu flicks.
Spending part of her childhood in New York City, Liu speaks fluent English and has acted before in English-language movies like The Forbidden Kingdom in 2008, alongside Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and Outcast in 2014, alongside Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen.
Liu’s casting will likely come as a relief to many. Last year, more than 100,000 fans signed a petition demanding that the role of Mulan be played by a Chinese actress after Disney announced that the live-action adaption’s cast would be “mostly” Chinese.
However, according to a article, the response to Disney’s choice has been somewhat mixed in China with netizens criticizing Liu for being a boring, bad actor that has been in too many box office flops.
A source close to the film’s production told Forbes contributor Rob Cain that Liu had managed to win the role of Mulan by “working hard and delivering a great audition.”
“The studio and the filmmakers have bent over backwards trying to find someone who checks everyone’s boxes, which, as you know, is impossible,” the source said. “The Chinese partners supported her and ultimately the decision was made based on the quality of the performance. I hope that people are able to step back and judge the movie as a whole when it is finished.”
In case you had an unhappy childhood: Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, which can be traced back to the 6th century, “Mulan” is the story of a girl who disguises herself as a man to serve in her father’s place in the war against the Huns. While the live-action adaption of the Disney classic was announced back in 2015, it wasn’t accompanied by any mention of specific cast members. Fans feared that Disney planned to “whitewash” the Chinese legend, particularly after a satirical tweet that Jennifer Lawrence had won the role was taken as real news.
The live-action Mulan adaption will be directed by Niki Caro, a New Zealand-born director who most recently oversaw The Zookeeper’s Wife. It’s eyeing a 2019 release.