Chinese superstar Liu Yifei makes her lead role debut in Hollywood as the title character in Disney's recently released feature Mulan. During an interview with Asia One, Yifei revealed that her look as a young woman who disguises herself as a male soldier in the Imperial Army of Ancient China was so convincing that it even fooled her co-stars.
"I felt like I am a man because I fit in so well. One day, we were working and we were all dressed in costume and an actor patted my shoulder, and asked me a question. But when I turned around, he realized it was me and not the guy he wanted to address. He was so surprised and apologetic. So when you're surrounded by men, you feel like they're your buddies. They don't treat me like a girl. I'm just one of the guys to them."
Based on ancient Chinese folklore, Mulan tells the tale of a young girl who takes the place of her father in the army by disguising herself as a man. Disney had already made an animated classic based on the folklore. The live-action remake features a number of distinguished Chinese superstars, including Donnie Yen and Gong Li, and Yifei expressed her happiness over being able to work with the screen icons.
"I admire Donnie's work, not just as a kung fu superstar. He's also really good at performing and acting. And he's a really warm guy. Gong Li is like the queen of movies. So, people think I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to work with her, and it is a great opportunity. She is as good in person as the character she plays on screen. You don't think that she's a superstar when you talk to her. She's really real."
Since Yifei is playing the role of a legendary Chinese warrior, there was a natural inclination to present her character as an invulnerable, mythical hero. But according to the actress, it was important for her to bring out the more complex shades of Mulan for the movie.
"Each day I allowed myself to forget who I am for the moment. You have to kind of lose yourself and not think about just how brave Mulan is. Yes, I am playing a hero, so we need to bring out that side, but I think every human being is complex, and complex is so beautiful. And that's where the energy of the character is."
Since its release, Mulan has received praise from critics and audiences, with many agreeing that the film is the best live-action Disney remake to date. The lack of songs and the dragon Mushu has not appeared to stop audiences from enjoying the movie as an old-fashioned war epic with strong feminist undertones.
Featuring a lead cast of Liu Yifei, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Gong Li, Yoson An, Tzi Ma, Rosalind Chao and Jet Li, Mulan is available Friday, Sept. 4 via Disney+ Premier Access. This news was first reported by AsiaOne.com.