Mulan’s Director Reveals The ‘Grueling’ Physical Audition She Put The New Star Through

Mulan in the trailer

Over the past few years, Disney has made a tradition of producing live-action remakes of its animated blockbusters. Each one has made a ton of money at the box office, starting with Maleficent and most recently with both Aladdin (which is getting a sequel) and The Lion King. The next of these type of projects is Niki Caro's Mulan, which is based off the beloved 1998 animated movie musical. Actress Liu Yifei stars as the title role, but it turns out that Caro but her through a really intense audition process.

Auditions for big blockbusters can be famously long, especially when studios are recruiting a relative unknown to the process. Mulan was no exception to this rule, as finding the right actress to play the iconic historical figure was of the utmost importance. While the actress wouldn't have to sing the animated movie's iconic songs, she needed to have fierce athletic abilities. Niki Caro explained why it was such a hard audition process for Liu Yifei, saying:

Because I needed a warrior, and I needed a partner. So she did this grueling audition and then we sent her straight to the physical trainer to do an equally grueling physical assessment. Weights, push-ups, pull-ups, everything. She was brilliant in the dramatic part of the audition, and in the physical part she never stopped, never faulted. I knew at the end of that day that I’d found my warrior.

Jeez, talk about an interview from hell. Luckily it all worked out for Liu Yifei, but this shows just how much care studios take casting for big blockbusters. Mulan isn't unique in this sense, although the physical assessment is a new dynamic that raises the stake even further. And now Liu Yifei will get the chance to bring honor to us all.

Director Niki Caro's comments come from Empire, in an interview which peeled back the curtain to Mulan's development and production. The upcoming blockbuster is just a month and change away, so we should be learning plenty of exciting new tidbits as the film approaches theaters. Although I doubt any other actor had such an intense road to their role.

In the end, Niki Caro believed she found her partner in Liu Yifei. The Mulan remake is abandoning its iconic musical numbers for epic action sequences. As such, Yifei did a ton of weapon, wire work, and stunts for the role. The trailers reveal plenty of over the top battles for the upcoming movie, which will focus much more on the war itself.

Later in her same interview, Niki Caro praised how Liu Yifei was able to lead the cast of Mulan by example. As she put it,

She set the bar so high on set. She was so much tougher than any of the boys surrounding her. They were terrified of her strength.

Well, it sounds like Liu Yifei is a bonafide badass in Mulan. She worked extremely hard to even get the role, and seemingly stepped once she officially became a Disney princess. Luckily, the wait for the movie is almost over.

Mulan will hit theaters on March 27th. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.