It's been several years since it was first revealed that Disney was working on a live-action remake of Mulan. In that time, it's been quite an adventure to see the production evolve since 2015. Considering the movie that we have seen in the trailers. It's impossible to believe there were once reports that the Mulan movie wouldn't even focus on Mulan, or that there were fears the film might "whitewash" the title character. According to one producer, those reports were entirely unfounded, and actually entirely false.
Producer Jason Reed recently spoke to THR and stated outright that any reports that the film was ever considering a non-Asian lead, or even a non-female lead were entirely made up as that was never the case. According to the producer...
This is the first time I've been on a big touchstone movie with the internet what it is today. And I had a Google alert set, so I'd see these things, 'Oh, there was originally a white male lead, or they're casting Jennifer Lawrence,' and they were all just made up.
The idea that Jennifer Lawrence could play Mulan sounds insane, but it was a real rumor back in 2016, though not one that anybody really believed even at the time. Although, to be fair, following announcements that Scarlett Johansson would star in a live-action remake of the Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell, maybe the rumor didn't sound quite as insane as it should have. There was even a petition asking Disney to cast an Asian actress, not because there was any evidence that wasn't going to happen, simply because there was a general fear it might.
The report that the Mulan lead might actually be a white male came from what was reported to be a spec script that Disney had purchased, but, at least according to some sources, never planned to actually use. Assuming that's true, it's at least understandable where that rumor came from, even if it was never the case.
Now, we at least can look and see what Mulan really looks like, and regardless of what may or may not have been considered, it's clear that the final decision was to go with an all, or nearly completely, Asian cast. It's certainly the right call.
Certainly the decision to go that route was as much a business decision as it was anything creative. China is a major global box office and one certainly expects Disney hopes that Mulan does well there. Anything that could be perceived as tarnishing the Chinese cultural story likely would have been a serious strike against its box office potential. Although, with the unfortunate timing of coronavirus, it's possible the films Chinese box office will take a hit anyway.
Mulan hits theaters next month.