Disney Just Cast Chinese Star Liu Yifei As The Lead In ‘Mulan’ And She’s Kind Of A Badass
After a year of searching, Disney has finally cast the lead role for their upcoming live-action version of Mulan, choosing 30-year-old Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu. (What’s with Chinese actresses going by two different names?) Yifei will follow in the footsteps of Emma Watson (Belle), Lily James (Cinderella) and Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) as actresses to play iconic Disney characters in their recent spate of live-action films.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Liu is no stranger to movies that require a little action having appeared in films with Jackie Chan and Jet Li and she won her first major acting award (at the Macau International Movie Festival) for her role in the 2012 film The Assassins.
A team of casting directors visited five continents and saw nearly 1,000 candidates for the role, which requires credible martial arts skills, the ability to speak English and the most ineffable requirement of all: star quality. In deference to cultural accuracy, the studio focused on locating an ethnically Chinese young woman to play Hua Mulan, who disguised herself as a man to take her father’s army conscription in 5th century China.
In Liu, Disney found the complete package. Nicknamed “Fairy Sister” by the Chinese public for her pure and innocent looks and image, she has been one of the country’s most popular actresses of the current generation since breaking out with a series of hit television dramas in the mid-2000s, while she was still a teenager enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. Liu is fluent in English, having lived in Queens, N.Y., for part of her childhood, and acted in English in both 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom, alongside Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and 2014’s Outcast, opposite Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen. She also starred opposite Emile Hirsch in Danish auteur Bille August’s period romance The Chinese Widow, which opened the Shanghai International Film Festival in June.
Liu has been acting since 2002, appearing in over a dozen films and numerous TV shows. She has also released two albums and sang on several movie soundtracks. In addition to all of that, Liu has also been a brand ambassador for companies like Dior, Tissot, Garnier and Pantene.
In 2016, Liu was named Most Popular Actress at the Guangzhou College Student Film Festival and in 2017, she was nominated for Best Actress at the Shanghai International Film Festival.
Sounds like Disney has made an excellent choice in selecting Liu to play the legendary female warrior Mulan.