Jason Scott Lee is joining Gong Li on the villain side of the equation in director Niki Caro and Disney's live-action Mulan retelling. The actor previously collaborated with the Mouse House on the 1994 live-action version of The Jungle Book and its 2002 animated film Lilo & Stitch.
Twenty years after Disney first adapted the Chinese legend of Mulan into a 2D animated musical adventure, the studio is preparing to start production on a live-action re-imagining that is described as being closer to a Ridley Scott epic than its cartoon predecessor. Caro, who previously worked with the Mouse House on the inspirational true-story sports drama McFarland, USA, has now assembled a cast for the film that includes Liu Yifei (aka. "Fairy Sister") as Mulan, Jet Li as the emperor of China, and Gong Li as a dangerous witch. It seems the latter isn't the only antagonist in the movie, either.
According to THR, Lee has been cast in the live-action Mulan as Bori Khan, a deadly warrior determined to avenge his father's death. This is another noteworthy change from Disney's animated take on the Chinese story, which features the late Miguel Ferrer as the voice of Shan Yu, the leader of the Huns - whose invasion of China kicks off the narrative - and the main villain in that movie. It's not clear yet if there's a direct connection between Lee's Bori Khan and Gong Li's sorceress character, but at the moment it appears they will be serving as the baddies in the live-action version, in Shan Yu's absence.
Khan isn't the only new character addition to Disney's Mulan remake, either. The film will also feature Donnie Yen (of Ip Man trilogy and Rogue One fame) as Commander Tung - a seasoned warrior who mentors Mulan when she joins the Chinese army (in disguise as a man, in traditional fashion) - and Yoson An as Chen Honghui, the soldier who evolves into Mulan's love interest over the course of the film. Neither of those characters are featured in the Mouse House's 1998 animated Mulan, which instead has Captain Li Shang (voiced by B.D. Wong) serve as Mulan's romantic interest and doesn't include anyone who's really equivalent to Tung in the story.
Of course, there's a fair argument to be made that Disney should try and mix things up with Caro's Mulan, rater than attempt to produce a copy-and-paste live-action iteration of its animated film. The project has put together quite the impressive - and, thankfully, non-white - ensemble thus far, with Lee (who's also known for starring in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) being the latest talented addition to the cast. It seems fitting, then, that many of these actors are getting a shot at leaving their marks on brand-new characters that aren't saddled with the expectations that come with pre-established roles.
- Mulan (2020) release date: Mar 27, 2020