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Throughout Disney’s history, the House of Mouse has created some incredibly memorable villains. But what we see on the big screen or during our many playthroughs at home is the final product of months/years of the creatives behind them going back to the drawing board and fine tuning their ideas until it's just right. Even though 2020’s Mulan is a live-action remake, the filmmakers decided to craft completely new baddies, including Jason Scott Lee’s Bori Khan.
When speaking to Jason Scott Lee about the new Disney+ release over a video call, I asked the actor about the evolution of Bori Khan before production began on Mulan. Apparently his look changed a lot throughout the development of the movie before it went into production. Per his words:
Because Bori Khan is part of the wolf clan, I had these long riding coats and I had this big wolf head on my shoulder. And in another one I had this big wolf on my head, like a helmet kind of thing. They put on real chain mail underneath so the costume was super heavy, I could barely get up on a horse on it. Everything was real leather and real steel. Then we slowly fine-tuned it, found that we could make the chain mail out of rubber, lighter and more comfortable.
Wow, those would have been completely different looks for Bori Khan for sure. The actor, who has previously played Bruce Lee in 1993’s Dragon and was the voice of David is Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, went into detail about how a wolf’s head was almost a centerpiece of his costume due to the character’s roots. Some other changes had to do with practicality, since the production was attempting to balance authenticity and Lee’s ability to do his stunts for Mulan.
During our conversation, Jason Scott Lee also talked about how long it actually took for Bori Khan to reach his final look. As he stated:
Yeah, that was a process. Building Bori Khan and his final look, there were some really outlandish ideas that came in, that I tried on, and took off and tried on. That went on for like two months during pre-production before we found the right look… It was a cool process to be a part of.
Two months for the costume alone... whoa! There’s clearly an amazing amount of detail that goes into making a $200 million-budgeted action epic. Niki Caro and the filmmakers ended up going with a long-haired Bori Khan with a sleek black leather outfit. That’s before the incredible stunt work Lee did on set – he also told CinemaBlend that the final battle between him and Yufei Liu's Mulan took a month alone to shoot.
Making Mulan also meant Jason Scott Lee witnessed a few story changes, including some additions to the script once Gong Li was cast as Xian Lang, which he also detailed to us during the interview. Along with Bori Khan, Xian Lang is also a new character that did not appear in the 1998 original. She is a shape-shifting witch who helps Bori Khan as he rages his own war against the Imperial Army to avenge his father and protect his own people and indigenous land.