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Following multiple controversies over “whitewashing”, it looks like Hollywood is starting to turn the tide as a Chinese actress has been cast for the title role of Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of Mulan.

Live-action Mulan finds its lead.

Posted by Disney on Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Who is that girl we see, staring straight back at us, you ask? She’s Liu Yifei, who also goes by the name Crystal Liu.

The 30-year-old actress will play the lead warrior woman in the classic Chinese tale for the big screen telling the story of Chinese heroine Hua Mulan disguising herself as a man to fight against an invading army, saving her ageing father from conscription in 5th century China. It will be inspired by both the legendary ballad and Disney’s 1998 animated film, according to Disney.

The casting decision comes after a year of worldwide search that screened nearly 1,000 actresses for their ethnic background, credible martial arts skills, the ability to speak English and star quality, all of which Liu possess. An online petition has earlier attracted 112,000 signatures to deter whitewashing of the lead role in the remake.

The move proved to be praise-worthy for excited fans on social media. Even Ming-Na Wen, who was the speaking voice of Mulan in the animated classic, said Liu is a “great choice”.

It is also considered a victory for Asian actors in Hollywood, where white actors are cast to play Asian characters. Most recent examples include Tilda Swinton as the supposedly Tibetan The Ancient One in Doctor Strange, Scarlet Johansson as the supposedly Japanese half-human, half-cyborg agent named The Major in Ghost in the Shell and Emma Stone as the supposedly Hawaiian-Asian Allison Ng in Aloha. All of whom have received a fair share of criticism for taking on roles who were Asian in the source material.

Liu, who began her career in television, is already a household name in China and is called by many as “Fairy Sister” for her pure and innocent image. Apart from appearing in more than a dozen films in China, she also has Hollywood acting experience under her belt including The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Outcast with Nicolas Cage. She is also a brand ambassador for high-end consumer brands like Dior Prestige skincare, Tissot, Garnier, and Pantene.

The live-action film will be directed by Niki Caro (The Zookeeper’s Wife) and produced by Chris Bender, Jason Reed and Jake Weiner. It is set for a 2019 theatrical release. The 1998 animated version, voice-starring Wen alongside Eddie Murphy and B.D. Wong, earned a whopping $304.3 million worldwide as well as Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.

Photo from Manila Bulletin

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