Following the news that Donnie Yen has joined the cast of Disney’s live-action take on Mulan, comes word that Jet Li and Gong Li are also joining the cast.
However, their roles show that director Niki Caro is deviating from the animated original. More on who they will play, below.
THR says Jet Li is in final talks to play the emperor of China, who orders the mobilization of troops via the conscription of one male from each household. Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, will play the title character who takes the place of her injured father by disguising herself as a man so that he would not have to join the military.
Gong Li is in talks to play the villain of the film, a powerful witch. This is where the film seems to be stepping away from the animated original, where the primary antagonist was the leader of the invading Huns, Shan Yu.
The cast of the film is beginning to shape up pretty nicely. Not only does this have a strong Chinese cast, but Caro is promising that her adaptation will be “a big, girly martial arts epic” and that “it will be extremely muscular and thrilling and entertaining and moving.”
However, there is still no word yet on whether or not the film will have any songs. At first, Caro said the film wasn’t designed to have any of them from the animated original. She did a semi-180 and left the door open for her film using them. She said, “Yes, from what I understand, no songs right now, much to the horror of my children.” Honestly, there are two songs that I could think of that would be best for this film, which leaves some room for originals. If that is what Caro wants.
Jet Li is a well-renowned actor in China, having starred in The Shaolin Temple, Once Upon A Time In China, Black Mask, and Hero. Stateside he is probably best known for films like Lethal Weapon 4, The One, Kiss of the Dragon, Romeo Must Die, and the Expendables trilogy. The film also reunites Li and Liu after they appeared together in 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom.
Gong Li rose to international prominence thanks to roles in films like Curse of the Golden Flower, Memoirs of a Geisha, Miami Vice, and Raise the Red Lantern.
Caro’s vision for the film and probable non-use of the animated film’s songs follows along the lines of recent live-action Disney films. A handful of them are not direct adaptations and use the animated films as inspirations. Maleficent was more about the title sorceress than Aurora of Sleeping Beauty. The Jungle Book deviated from the animated source. Pete’s Dragon was nothing like its predecessor.
Mulan is tentatively scheduled for a November 2, 2018, release.