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Disney Finds Its Live-Action ‘Mulan’ Star in Chinese Actress Crystal Liu

The actress will lead Niki Caro's film, which is "inspired by both the legendary ballad and the Disney animated classic."

Disney / Shutterstock

Walt Disney Pictures has today announced that its found its newest star to lead its long-gestating live-action “Mulan” feature film, directed by Niki Caro. Per an official press release, Chinese actress Liu Yifei (also known as Crystal Liu) has been cast as the eponymous lead in the film, “which is inspired by both the legendary ballad and the Disney animated classic.”

The multi-talented actress is well-known in her native China, where she has been modeling since the age of 8, in addition to training in singing, dancing, and playing the piano. While Liu moved to the United States at the age of 10, she returned to China in 2002 to pursue her acting and modeling career. Trained at the Performance Institute of Beijing Film Academy, Liu has appeared on both television and in film. She’s best known to domestic audiences for her roles in films like “Ip Man 3” and “The Forbidden Kingdom.”

Liu is the first actor to be cast in the much-hyped new offering from Disney, which continues their new tradition of turning beloved animated classics — like “Cinderella” and their smash hit “Beauty and the Beast” — into live-action features. In October of last year, news broke that the feature will include all Chinese leads.

When IndieWire spoke to Caro earlier this year, she confessed to being a tremendous fan of the character. “She’s my favorite princess,” Caro said at the time. “Mulan kicks ass.”

Despite the large scale of the film – it’s expected to cost north of $100 million to make – the filmmaker was enthused about the next step, drawing similarities to her first feature. “It has a lot of similarities to ‘Whale Rider,’ which is this very, very important part of my life,” she said. “I feel like I’m revisiting territory that I already kind have an in my DNA, but I get to flex the filmmaker muscle in a really big way. I think I’ve always had a really big vision.”

Jason Reed, Chris Bender, and Jake Weiner are producing, and Bill Kong is executive producing.

Disney’s statement also adds that additional announcements regarding the film will be made in the coming weeks. “Mulan” is expected to hit theaters in 2019.

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