Finally, Disney has announced its long-awaited live-action remake of Mulan will be released across the Chinese mainland.
In 1998, through the animated film Mulan, Disney retold the Chinese household legend to Western audiences. Now, the new live-action version is reportedly adapted from The Ballad of Mulan, a poem created during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-581).
From the very beginning, Disney made it clear that the casting of Hua Mulan, the main protagonist, was crucial for the movie. Producer Jason Reed once said the film would flop if audiences cannot love and respect the role of Mulan.
So, the studio launched a worldwide casting campaign, considering more than 1,000 dancers, martial artists, actresses and singers for the lead. With her outstanding performance, Liu won the role. Most of the other major characters are played by Chinese stars, such as Donnie Yen for Commander Tung, Jet Li as the Emperor, and Gong Li portraying the witch-like powerful Xianniang.
Recalling her casting for Mulan, Liu says the process was a big challenge despite having similar experiences before. "The (audition) atmosphere felt brutal. You could be recognized when you impress them. If you cannot, you will lose the chance forever after you leave the room," she says. After she was officially signed to lead the film, Liu trained for three months. Every morning she woke up at 5 am, taking an hour's ride to take her first training program, which lasted for two hours on endurance and strength. Then, she took another one-hour ride to a racecourse to train in horse-riding before she got lessons on dialogue-speaking and martial arts skills. The daily training took around seven hours on average.
Speaking of her understanding of Mulan, the Chinese household heroine who takes the place of her ailing father to join the army, Liu says: "She (the character) is so well-known to generations of Chinese. But I don't want to just take her as a great hero. I wish I could find her inner strength wrapped in outer struggles."