Lead actress and director’s animated response to being a part of Disney’s ‘Mulan’
Disney is releasing “Mulan”, its first live-action remake since the lockdown.
The live-action drama is directed by Niki Caro, who gave us the critically-acclaimed 2020 hit, Whale Rider, and stars Chinese-born American actress, Liu Yifei, as the eponymous heroine.
In an interview with the both of them, prior to the current controversy, that is, they were pretty chuffed about the movie.
This past week, “Mulan” has become a political hot potato after news got out that parts of the film were shot in Xinjiang.
This region of China has been in the spotlight after the government was accused of human rights violations against the Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.
Back to the press conference with the formidable women, they had plenty to say about the creative aspect.
On her awareness of the character and the Disney animated release in the late ‘90s, Yifei reflected: “I couldn’t remember how old I was when I first watched the animated version, but it’s for sure in my memory and I loved it. In one of my auditions, I actually sang ‘Reflection’.”
The movie follows the journey of Hua Mulan, a fearless young woman who, while masquerading as a man, went on to become one of the greatest warriors China has ever known.
“Of course, her legacy wasn’t without personal sacrifice and a great love for her family and ailing father, whose place she takes in the Imperial Army in a war against Northern invaders.
Caro was given the mammoth task to translate this remarkable story into an engaging live-action remake.
The director admitted: “The intimidating thing is my responsibility to the story, to the studio and to the audience.
“As far as budget goes, with every film I’ve made, ‘Whale Rider’ included, I had a vision that was far bigger than the budget allowed. And so, this time to be able to have a budget equal to the very epic vision of my head, was just really satisfying.”
She added: “Mulan herself. I love her. And I think for me it was her journey from village girl, to male soldier, to warrior and hero that felt like it spoke for all of us.
“And it was a story that didn't in fact originate with the 1998 animation, but is centuries old.
“And has been resonating and relevant for hundreds of years, and never more so than now. So, for all of those reasons.”
To gain a better understanding of the narrative and how best to execute it, she also revisited the ‘Balad of Mulan’, which is the oldest known version of the story.
As for bagging the lead role, Yifei shared: “When I actually heard that after the audition, I had another one, I was relieved because I thought I did an okay job and that I was on to the next step, so that means something.
“I remember that the trainer, Bojan (Mladenovic), was super professional.
“So, whenever I did pushups and squats and weights and different kinds of cardio, he went to this thick notebook and then wrote something.
“Then after like ninety minutes I couldn’t walk. I think it was more intense than the actual training process. It really tested my limits. But it was fun and something to remember.”
She trained for a solid three months.
She added: “I even learned Tai Chi and some Qigong like movements because I understand Mulan’s inner power as her connection of her spirit and not the ego but the true self. So, I really liked to train this way.”
On Yifei sharing scenes with Jet Fli and Gong Li, she offered: “I’m just full of thanks. I think what an opportunity, and just to be with them, not just because they’re perfect actors and actresses, but because of the kind of human beings they are.
I worked with Jet twelve years ago in a movie called ‘Forbidden Kingdom’.
He was amazing and he taught me a lot. At the time, I didn’t know how to ride a horse.
We did things together, and he helped me. And when Donnie was on set doing all those moves, it was really crazy just to watch that. And Gong Li is one of my favourites. She’s my queen really. I love her so much.”
“Mulan” is now showing at cinemas, nationwide, in South Africa.