With the recent fan petition arguing for an authentic representation of Mulan in Disney's live-action remake (and rightfully so), it's led to a lot of speculation as to who will be taking on the role. Names being thrown about include X-Men Apocolypse's Lana Condor, Glee's Jenna Ushkowitz and Gossip Girl's Nan Zhang.
These are all great choices, but due to my love for Disney and my love for East-Asian cinema, allow me to offer up my opinion and take a look at eight mostly-native actresses that I think could kick some serious ass as the legendary warrior.
1. Jamie Chung
Jamie Chung seems like the most obvious choice as she already plays Mulan on ABC's Once Upon A Time, though not quite the one you know from the Disney adaptation. Chung's portrayal closer follows the original tale of Hua Mulan. Although the actress is of Korean descent and not Chinese, she has proven popular among fans.
In addition, Chung is a familiar face in Hollywood, having appeared in plenty of movies and TV shows. For example, Chung portrayed my favorite character in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Miho, taking the role over from Devon Aoki from the first film.
2. Fan Bingbing
Another popular choice, Fan Bingbing is one of the highest-paid actresses in China and is recently becoming familiar to Western viewers for her role as mutant, "Blink," in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Bingbing has proven herself able to handle action sequences and be a well-liked character by saying no more than two words. It is unclear as of yet if the live-action Mulan will in fact be a musical (we assume it will be), Fan Bingbing is also a singer, so there's that.
While Fan Bingbing is not much of an English speaker, Mulan is still in its very early stages so there would be a lot of time to practice. Or, she could just do what Gong Li does and learn her English lines phonetically. (Go watch her in Memoirs of a Geisha. Madness).
3. Celina Jade
Also a singer and a martial artist, Celina Jade's current on-screen credits are few, with her debut being in 2008's Hong Kong action film Legendary Assassin. She has more recently proven herself popular while playing Slade Wilson's not really lover, Shado in DC's Arrow, where Jade had plenty of screen time to show off her skills.
In addition, Celina Jade is also the daughter of Roy Horan, who shared the screen with the likes of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan in Game of Death II (1981) and Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978), respectively.
4. Zhang Ziyi
Zhang Ziyi is a total badass. She is Golden-Globe and BAFTA nominated and is one of the most recognizable Chinese actresses in the West. Ziyi is best known for her roles in wuxia and martial arts movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and The Grandmaster but has also appeared in lighter, English-spoken movies like Rush Hour 2 and Memoirs of a Geisha. Ziyi is considered one of the Four Dan Actresses of China, referring to the most bankable young actresses in the country.
Zhang Ziyi is trained in dance and often uses her skills as a basis for her martial arts training in movies. While Disney will probably opt for a slightly younger, American actress, Zhang Ziyi is one of my favorite actresses and I would salivate if she was cast as Mulan.
5. Katrina Law
Moving on, Katrina Law is American and of half Taiwanese decent. Law is a familiar face among television fans, particularly for her roles as Mira in Spartacus and Nyssa al Ghul in Arrow.
Katrina Law is also trained in dance and has a black belt in Taekwondo. And although the actress is known for her darker, femme-fatale type roles, she's had some light-hearted ones too. The actress can play both parts and that balance would be essential for a live-action take on Mulan.
Law told Maxim:
“As much as I love kicking and punching people in the face and the angst of unrequited love, I do love being goofy and running around making people laugh and getting my man or woman at the end of the day.”
6. Malese Jow
Malese Jow is a name that keeps popping up when it relates to a live-action Mulan. The 25-year-old half Chinese-American actress has definitely made her way around Hollywood, especially on television, and has acquired quite the fan-base thanks to her variety of roles. Malese Jow appeared in various Nickelodeon and Disney shows early on in her career and more recently in shows such as The Vampire Diaries, The Flash and the Academy-Award nominated film, The Social Network.
Jow has appeared soft and also tough, sweet and also a little sour. There is little doubt that she could pull of the various sides to Mulan's personality; she has proven herself capable of doing so and doing so well. With an already established fan-base behind her and a singing career with plenty of catchy pop tunes under her belt, Jow would be a fantastic choice for a live-action Mulan.
7. Rinko Kikuchi
Japanese actress Rinko Kikuchi is a busy woman. Recently stepping further into the Hollywood limelight in Guillermo del Toro's 2013 sci-fi Pacific Rim as well as 2013's 47 Ronin and Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter in 2014. She is also Academy-Award nominated for her role in 2006's Babel, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, whose credits include Birdman and The Revenant. Kikuchi appears timid but quickly proved herself to be much more than that.
Kikuchi also practices both sword-fighting and horse-back riding, and even dabbled in singing in the 2008 film, The Brothers Bloom. I mean come on, she may not be Chinese, but all the boxes are being ticked here!
8. Juju Chan
Juju Chan is a fast-rising star. Though not appearing in many well-known films as of yet, she is being dubbed "The Female Bruce Lee." This is due to her success in being a Taekwondo medal-winning athlete and Kung fu star. In addition, Chan is an actor and singer.
Chan recently starred in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny and you may not be too familiar with her yet, but it's hard to argue with those credentials. Hopefully we will see more of her in the future, and Mulan would be a great point of elevation. Look out for her name.
This may just be wishful thinking, or is it just an excuse to talk about some of my favourite actresses? Either way, these ladies should never be under-estimated.
Shu Qi is multi-award winning but a less-realistic choice for Mulan due to her age. Shu Qi is a brilliant actress with plenty of serious and light-hearted roles to her name. She has appeared in comedies and action movies where she has showcased everything she can do in her 20-year career.
Although she is older than Disney would likely cast for their princesses, Shu Qi should never be under-estimated. Last year's The Assassin earned, among others, a BAFTA nomination for Best Film Not in the English Language.
The multi-award winning actress may now be into her 50s, but her career is showing no signs of slowing down. Gong Li is one of the most prominent actors in China and is one of the finest working actors in the world. Li is credited with helping to bring Chinese cinema to Europe and the United States.
Gong Li's performances are always so raw and full of emotion. You feel what she feels. We've loved her and we've despised her. She doesn't do much in the way of English-spoken films, but for the ones that she does do, such as Memoirs of a Geisha, she learns her lines phonetically.
Mama Mulan: Michelle Yeoh
Michelle Yeoh couldn't play Mulan, but how awesome could she be as Mulan's mother, Fa Li? While many fans are expecting and hoping for Mulan's original voice actress Ming-Na Wen, who currently appears in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D which, don't get me wrong, would be awesome. However I bring up Michelle Yeoh because along with Zhang Ziyi, she is one of the most recognizable Chinese actresses in the West, actually starring alongside her in 2000's international success Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, where they went face to face in one of the greatest fights in martial arts movie history, earning both ladies a BAFTA nomination.
Yeoh has also had success in English language films such as Babylon AD, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and voicing "Soothsayer" in Kung Fu Panda 2. She currently stars as Lotus in the Netflix original series, Marco Polo. So needless to say, she's already a pretty well-known face and has appeared across a variety of genres in a variety of roles.
Just pair her with Chow Yun-fat, another known face in Hollywood through his roles in (again) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and later as Sao Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End and bam — you've got some equally kick-ass parents. I'm not sure what the chances are of either of them actually being cast in Mulan but hey, a guy can dream, right?
I should probably stop before I start naming off all of my favorite East-Asian actresses and telling you why they're awesome, so instead I'll leave you with a couple of questions:
Who would you like to see take on the role of Mulan in Disney's live-action adaptation? Who are your favorite East-Asian actresses? Let us know.
We couldn't leave you without the classic song from the Disney movie. Enjoy:
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Let's also not forget that this won't actually be the first instance of a live-action Mulan film. China did in fact do one back in 2009, titled Mulan: Rise of a Warrior (Released in some countries as Mulan: Legendary Warrior) with Zhao Wei in the role. It is quite the departure from the Disney adaptation. Check out the trailer below: