Yifei Liu and Director Niki Caro Talk about Mulan

By Maggie Ma

Los Angeles–Despite the spread of coronavirus in North America, Disney’s $ 200 million live-action “Mulan” will still hold its US release date on March 27. The first media screening was held on March 7th. Director Niki Caro and the leading actress Yifei Liu attended the screening and talked about the preparation and production of the film.

Leading actress Liu Yifei and director Niki Caro attending Mulan Q&A (image credit: Maggie Ma)

Speaking of being cast for the film, Yifei Liu said: “In fact, I didn’t participate in the first round of auditions due to a schedule conflict, but then I am lucky to meet the director later on. I know there are many actresses auditioned for this role and it is a great honor to be chosen. ”

Director Niki Caro pointed out that at first they wanted to find an unknown actor and hope to find the ideal Mulan in small villages of China. However, after a long time of searching,  she was still not totally satisfied with what she found until she met Yifei.  ”She is not only a good actress, but also has many other talents, including riding horses,  martial arts skills, singing, and she is very strong, ”Niki said.  “The audition includes a very strict physical test ,and she passed it.”

Mulan is expecting to have 80 million box office on opening weekend (image credit: Disney)

Yifei Liu recalled that after meeting the director, she was told to meet a coach for a physical assessment. The coach asked her to do all kinds of physical training for a total 90 minutes nonstop. In the end, she could hardly walk, and this intensity was even more tiring than the training afterwards. Fortunately, the director and coach were very satisfied with her physical ability.

Yifei has also played films with martial arts involved, but she still trained for “Mulan” for three and a half months. “In addition to horse riding, swordsmanship, and martial arts, I also learned Qi Gong,” she said.

In addition to physical training, Yifei also tried to figure out how to play a man. Hua Mulan joined the army pretending to be a male soldier “Hua Jun”. She said: “In addition to lowering my voice, I also try to figure out the what man will think and say. For example, in the film, the male soldiers will discuss the ideal woman in their minds. Hua Mulan has to join them, but she tried to speak for women as well even that may surprise some men. ”

Chinese well-known movie stars Jet Li, Gong Li and Donnie Yan also join the film . Yifei Liu said: “I had collaborated with Jet Li in’ The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)’ . At that time, I cannot even ride a horse. He was so patient to help and guide me,  I always felt that he was my mentor.  Although it was the first time I worked with Donnie Yen, but I feel so fortunate to  just see his performance on set.”

Gong Li is playing a brand new character in the living action Mulan adding more female power (image credit: Disney)

Gong Li is playing a witch in “Mulan” who originally an alliance of villains, but after encountered with Mulan , the two women found something in common.  They are all powerful women but cannot find a place in that society. This character is not in the original animated version but a fresh way to add female voice in the story. Speaking of Gong Li, Liu Yifei immediately turned into a big fan: “Gong Li is my queen , I love her too much! Any opportunity to cooperate with her is my honor.”

Talking about her growth over the years, Yifei said that her childhood dream was to become an actor. Movies opened her imagination and changed her view of the world. Now that she has achieved her dream, she continues to work hard, hoping to bring more and better characters to the audience, so that the audience can follow her to experience the magic of movies.

Director Niki Caro also mentioned that Yifei did record a Chinese version of “Reflection”, the famous theme sone from the animation version. Audiences around the world will hear that song during the after film credits.

Talking about challenges, Niki Caro said the biggest challenge is to make a war movie under PG-13 rating. They have to make the action scenes cool, real but also not too violent. She is very proud that she has a real female crew for this film. The key talents behind this movie’s makeup, costumes, cinematography and many department are female.

“Mulan” will be out in US theaters on March 27th