Disney’s live-action Mulan film has scored some major Chinese talent in the form of Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha, Raise the Red Lantern), Jet Li (Shaolin Temple, Hero) and Donnie Yen (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Drunken Tai Chi).
Jet Li, one of China’s most enduring megastars, will play the Emperor of China. Li was a martial arts champion in his youth and that expertise transformed him into one of the most successful Chinese actors of all time with franchises like Shaolin Temple and Once Upon a Time in China. Li also conquered the US in films like Lethal Weapon 4, Romeo Must Die and The Expendables series. He became a member of AMPAS in 2008.
Gong Li is set to play the film’s villain, a powerful witch (and a departure from the 1998 animated version). Li began her career as a musician before entering drama school where she earned her big break, in Yimou Zhang’s Red Sorghum. Since then, Li’s acting career exploded with film like The Story of Qui Ju (which earned her the Best Actress prize at Venice) Farewell My Concubine, Memoirs of a Geisha. She’s been a jury member at the Venice, Cannes and Tokyo film festivals and was the first Chinese actor to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
Donnie Yen made his film debut in Drunken Tai Chi after spending his youth in China, Hong Kong and then the United States studying the fighting arts under martial arts movie director Yuen Woo-ping. He’s most well-known for Ip Man, Iron Monkey, Blade II and broke big in the US with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
The film is being directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider, The Zookeeper’s Wife) and starts filming in China and New Zealand this August for a March 2020 release. The lead role is being played by Liu Yifei.