In a surprising twist on the subject material, Chinese actress Gong Li has been cast as a female villain in Disney‘s upcoming live-action remake of Mulan. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Li, a major movie star in China, will join the cast as a “powerful witch.” No other information about the character is known at this point, but she will join a legion of other famous Disney sorceresses, from Snow White‘s Evil Queen to The Little Mermaid‘s Ursula.
Fans will recall that the 1998 animated Mulan had a male villain: Shan-Yu, voiced by Twin Peaks‘ Miguel Ferrer, the brutal leader of the Hun Army. There are currently no announcements about casting for Shan-Yu, which may indicate a brand new direction for the remake, which is also adding a sister character for Mulan, played by Chinese-Vietnamese actress Xana Tang.
Disney also announced two other major additions to the Mulan cast: Donnie Yen will play Commander Tung, another new character, and a mentor to Mulan, and Jet Li will play the emperor of China. They join the previously announced Liu Yifei, who won the titular role after an extensive worldwide search. New Zealander Niki Caro, best-known for her Oscar-nominated feature Whale Rider, will direct.
The new characters aren’t the first announced departure for the Mulan remake. The film is allegedly not a musical like the original, although Caro said last March that that decision wasn’t necessarily written in stone. The lack of focus could be why Disney bumped the movie twice; it was originally meant to come out this November, was pushed back to 2019, and will now come out March 27, 2020.
Adding more women is certainly an exciting move for the film, and we’re curious to see how this thing works as a non-musical, if that is indeed the direction Disney is taking. But what about you? How do you think a witch fits into the Mulan narrative? Let us know in the comments!
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