Disney's live-action adaptation of its animated classic Mulan is continuing to shape its cast ahead of the start of production later this year. Yesterday we got the news that martial arts cinema legend and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story co-star Donnie Yen has joined the film as Mulan's mentor, and now two more major Chinese stars have been added to the cast, including a brand new villain.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gong Li, one of China's most acclaimed and awarded actresses both at home and around the world, is "confirmed" to join the film as the still unnamed new villain. Gong — whose work in films like The Story of Qui Ju, Farewell My Concubine, and Breaking The Silence has earned her The Venice Film Festival's Volip Cup for Best Actress, a Cannes Film Festival Trophy, and multiple Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers (considered together to be China's most prestigious film awards) trophies — will play "a powerful witch" in the film, adding another major supernatural layer to the story. In Disney's 1998 version, the main villain was the invading Hun general Shan Yu, and the main supernatural element was Mulan's talking dragon guardian Mushu. This time around, Disney's opting for both more magic and more women in major roles in the film, and they've picked quite an actress to fill both needs.
For the role of the Emperor of China, who orders the troop conscription that ultimately leads to Mulan posing as a boy to take the place of her father in the army, the production has its eyes on another Chinese superstar: Jet Li. In a career spanning more than 35 years, Li has risen from the world of martial arts to the world of international action superstardom, like fellow legends Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. He remains one of the most recognizable action stars in the world, and has had major crossover successes in the United States thanks to films like The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, The Forbidden Kingdom, and The Expendables Trilogy. At this point Li is reportedly in "final talks" to join the film, and add Disney blockbusters to his long list of accomplishments.
In addtion to Gong and Li, the film is also adding New Zealand-born actress Xana Tang — best known for TV work like the New Zealand series Filthy Rich and the Australian series The Letdown — in the role of Mulan's sister. Like Gong's new villain, Mulan's sister is yet another new role added to the live-action production, signaling an even more expansive vision for the world and characters of Mulan this time around.
Mulan, directed by Niki Caro and starring Liu Yifei in the title role, is set to hit theaters March 27, 2020.