Today in Entertainment: Disney casts Chinese actress Liu Yifei in ‘Mulan’; Garrison Keillor says he has been fired

Disney has enlisted a Chinese actress to star in the title role of its live-action version of “Mulan.”

Liu Yifei, who also goes by Crystal Liu, will play the legendary Chinese warrior in the 2019 epic, Walt Disney Studios announced Wednesday.

Niki Caro, who directed “Whale Rider,” “North Country” and Disney’s “McFarland, USA,” will helm the project, Disney said, and Jason Reed, Chris Bender and Jake Weiner will produce. “House of Flying Daggers” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” producer Bill Kong will be executive producer.

The upcoming film is inspired by the “Ballad of Mulan,” in which a young woman impersonates a man to take her father’s place in the army, and Disney’s 1998 musical adaptation of the poem, which grossed more than $120 million at the domestic box office and $304 million worldwide. Music from the animated film also earned an Academy Award nomination.

Well known in China as a model and singer, the 30-year-old Yifei has appeared in “The Forbidden Kingdom” with Jackie Chan and “Outcast” with Nicolas Cage. She also stars in this year’s Mandarin-language fantasy adventure movie “Once Upon a Time,” which is not to be confused with ABC’s fantasy series that also featured a Mulan character played by Jamie Chung.

The studio searched for a year to find the right Mulan and considered nearly 1,000 candidates for the role, the Associated Press reported.

While several studios have faced stark criticism for whitewashing their films, Yifei’s racially sensitive casting was lauded on Twitter, much like the studio’s casting of a Middle Eastern actor for the lead role in its live-action “Aladdin” earlier this year. Many also voiced support for the diverse, star-studded cast of Disney’s live-action “The Lion King” adaptation, announced earlier this month.

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