YiFei Liu has been cast in the titular role of Disney’s live-action MULAN, Tracking Board has confirmed.
The actress, who also goes by Crystal Liu, is already a massive superstar in mainland China and won the role after an exhaustive search for someone who was ethnically Chinese, could speak English and had martial arts skills.
The story is based on the true legend of Hua Mulan, who posed as a man in order to lead her late father’s army in fifth century China. The live-action film will be based on both the legend and Disney’s 1998 animated film of the same name.
Whale Rider director Niki Caro is directing.
Chris Bender, Jason Reed and Jake Weiner are producing the film, which is based on a spec script written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, though the last draft of the script is credited to Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.
An October 2016 article from the Hollywood Reporter claimed that both Disney and Sony (which wound up hiring TV veteran Alex Graves) were intent on hiring Asian filmmakers to helm their rival Mulan movies, but in the end, neither studio went that route.
Liu’s English-speaking roles include 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom and 2014’s Outcast. She rose to fame in China thanks to successful TV roles over the past decade, earning the nickname “Fairy Sister.” She is represented by WME and David Chen.
Disney recently pushed the release date for Mulan to 2019.