A couple of days ago, Academy Award winning director Ang Lee was reported to have passed on the opportunity to direct the live-action remake of Disney's classic animated film, Mulan. No real reason was given for the director's rejection of the opportunity to bring the tale of Chinese history to life, leaving the missed opportunity as a sort of burning question for those who would have thought him a natural match for such an opportunity. As it turns out, Lee has a perfectly good reason to pass up Mulan: he's returning to a project that he's already been developing for some time.
I had the privilege of speaking with Ang Lee this weekend, as part of the press tour for his latest film, Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk. Interestingly enough, the comedy-drama about heroism and homecoming during the Iraq War was the film that had originally prevented Lee from making a planned biopic involving the historic "Thrilla' in Manilla" boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. But based on his response as to why he passed on Disney's latest in a string of live-action reimaginings of their animated canon, it looks like that project is back on:
Well, I have my mind on something else, which I wanted to make before Billy Lynn. It's a boxing movie. So I'm still pursuing that, [and] I don't want to hold up anybody. It sounds like a wonderful project, but I have my mind set on something else.
With Ang Lee's confirmation that this film was being developed before Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk landed on his desk, it's all but assured that the Ali / Frazier project is Lee's next film in line for production. An even more interesting development is the fact that this too is supposed to be a 3D film, as Lee is obviously enamored with the format. In fact, he's so into 3D that he's helped develop and deploy the 120 FPS / 4K 3D presentation that Billy Lynn will be enjoying in limited markets on its November release date.
Undoubtedly, Mulan could have been an extremely good fit with Lee's sensibilities, as his execution of the martial arts heavy Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as well as more personal stories like Life of Pi, show that he can tackle both sides of the story's demanding equation. However, the historic bout between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier has been in Ang Lee's line-up for some time, and to push it off any further could potentially help kill the project in the long run. Though the bright side of the project's first delay is the fact that Lee can now further sharpen his 120 FPS / 4K 3D skills with the Ali / Frazier story, and if it looks as good as the format did with Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk, the sheer intimacy of the boxing scenes alone will be worth the price of admission.
Still, should Disney really believe that Ang Lee is the right person for the job when it comes to directing Mulan, then perhaps it'd be best to wait for his schedule to clear up. It doesn't sound like there's a lack of interest in directing the story, so much that Lee is more passionate about his boxing film that he's already had to delay in favor of another project. To be completely honest, I'm kind of hoping that Ang Lee will eventually somehow find himself in the director's chair for Mulan, if only to see him apply his unique vision, and his 3D wizardry, to the wonderful world of Disney. Here hs is answering our Mulan question:
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk will be in theaters on Veteran's Day, November 11th, and we'll have more coverage on the film between now and the weekend of release.