The live-action remake of Disney’s Mulan finally has its titular character.
After a worldwide search that reportedly screened nearly 1,000 candidates for the role, the filmmakers have settled on Chinese actor Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu.
Following repeated controversy over alleged “whitewashing” in Hollywood, the decision to cast a Chinese actor to play the character based on the Chinese classic Ballad of Mulan has been lauded by many. Most recently, Disney (dis) and director Guy Ritchie cast a British Indian as Jasmine (generally thought of as an Arab character) in an upcoming remake of Aladdin. Hollywood also has a history of casting white actors to play Asian characters, including Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, and Tilda Swinton.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the filmmakers were not only looking for a Chinese actor, but also one with “credible martial arts skills” and the ability to speak English. Liu fits the bill, having lived in New York for part of her childhood, and acted in three English-language films to date: 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom and 2014’s Outcast; this year, she also starred in The Chinese Widow, opposite Emile Hirsch.
Liu has had a successful film and television career in China, starring in more than dozen films as well as several television shows while still a teenager. While Disney live-action reboots like Beauty and the Beast have demonstrated the success of the formula, Liu’s multi-national experience should help the Mulan remake appeal to both American and Chinese audiences, in turn nearly guaranteeing a box office smash.