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Disney's new Mulan movie may be coming out a year and a half later than previously scheduled, but make no mistake, it's still one of the higher priorities in Disney's lineup of live action adaptations of their classic animated movies. Last November, Liu Yifei, a.k.a. Crystal Liu, was cast as the eponymous protagonist, and last night, word came in that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story actor Donnie Yen has been cast to play Commander Tung, who will be Mulan's teacher and mentor. Now a few other casting announcements have come in, including who will play the villain. However, if you were looking forward to seeing Mulan and Shan Yu clash in a live action setting, you'll want to see that wish aside, as evidenced by Memoirs of a Geisha's Gong Li being brought aboard as the main antagonist.
1998's Mulan saw the main heroine and her allies dealing with Shan Yu and his invading Hun army, but not so in this live action version. Instead, Gong Li will play a powerful witch, though no other details were revealed about this character. Disney's recent live action adaptations have varied from being relatively straightforward remakes (like Beauty and the Beast) to taking significant creative liberties (like Maleficent). As we learn more about Mulan, it appears as if the movie will fall into the latter camp. Sure, the core premise of a young woman disguising herself as a man, taking her father's place in the Chinese army and ultimately saving the country will remain intact, but some of the more specific story details are being altered. In this case, rather than battling Shan Yu, Mulan will have to defeat this mysterious witch. Sword-fighting a Hun chieftain is by no means easy, but when your adversary is using magic, that makes the conflict even more challenging.
But Gong Li's addition wasn't the only Mulan casting news that broke today. THR also reported that longtime action star Jet Li is in final talks to play the emperor of China, who gives the order for one male from each household to be drafted into the army. Pat Morita voiced China's emperor in the original Mulan movie. Li made his Hollywood debut in 1998 with Lethal Weapon 4 and has since appeared in projects like The Expendables series and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Even though the emperor would be safely protected during Mulan, perhaps certain events will allow the actor another opportunity to show off his action chops. The Letdown's Xana Tang has also been cast as Mulan's sister, another character who wasn't in the animated tale.