Rotten Tomatoes:

After delays following the shutdown of theaters in the wake of COVID-19, Disney’s live-action take on ‘Mulan’ is finally being released – on the Mouse House’s streaming service, Disney+. Earlier this year, Rotten Tomatoes Editor Jacqueline Coley sat down with director Niki Caro, and stars Yifei Liu, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen, to talk about the importance of the Mulan story in Chinese culture, the task of adapting the beloved Disney cartoon to a live-action format, and how Li and Yen’s daughters played a big part in convincing them to join the film.

Yifei Liu as Mulan:

“My father cannot fight. So, I will take his place.”

(Jacqueline Coley interviews Niki Caro and Yifei Liu)

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Everybody loves Mulan. They love the story. When I told people, I was doing the junket, they were like I have to know what you thought. So, why do you think people are so attached to this particular princess story?”

Niki Caro (Director, Mulan):

“Oh, look, this story has been around since the 7th century. So, there is something so potent about it that has kept, that’s captivated people for centuries. And I think it’s her, it’s her humanity, it’s her courage, um, but it’s her love, you know. Her journey, hero’s journey, certainly everything she does, she does out of love for her family. Her desire to bring honor to them and to need to save her father’s life. And that selflessness, I think, is very inspiring.”

Yifei Liu as Mulan:

“I feel like, why is Mulan so important to so many people is, I see her not just as a hero but first human. And I think that’s movie itself is a universal language. But the humanity is also something everybody could feel and the journey to be true to herself and to experience the not as true and then to still have the courage to find the way home. Yeah, it’s so whatever, whenever do fight scenes or ride horse, it’s not just it has to do what happened before and what’s happening in her history. So, that makes the fight and all the action, uh, make sense.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Excellent. Um, and Niki you got to choreograph some amazing, um, fight performers with Donnie and Jet and Yifei. I just want to know like was that the reason why you think this is the one that had to be PG-13, because you knew you wanted to up the ante with both like the you know the fight sequences and just how dramatic it was. Is that why?”

Niki Caro (Director, Mulan):

“Yes, yes. It’s a very adrenalized version of, uh, Mulan, um, certainly for people who are more familiar with the animation by bringing it into live action, you know, we have the opportunity to make the action really explosive and thrilling, um, but with that we also have the emotion and, um, and the humor. We’re trying to do it all here. (Laughs) It’s a movie.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Yeah, I think it’s so great like to do this interview on you know Women’s Day. When I was talking to Donnie and Jet, they talked about your crew and how like the DP was female, makeup and camera operators and so, how does it feel to be like the first you know woman to really tell one of these stories so like a huge Disney movie. That’s got to be just incredible.”

Niki Caro (Director, Mulan):

“Yeah it is. And you know I’m really inspired by Mulan herself and that, and her commitment to being herself. To…she’s not powerful until she sheds the disguise of being a young man and fights as a woman. And as herself, and I feel the same for me, you know. I directed this enormous movie to this huge epic vision but as myself, as a woman and I had a lot of women with me to tell that story, this is very female-lit. So, on International Women’s Day it makes, it’s very satisfying to me to say this is what we do, actually.”

Gong Li as Xian Lang:

“When they find out who you are, they will show you no mercy.”

(Jacqueline Coley interviews Jet Li)

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“What was your first experience with Mulan? Because like a lot of folks for me it was the animated but what about you?”

Jet Li as The Emperor:

“Oh, when we grew up, we already know the story. In China, everybody knows Mulan, you know, because the character, everybody Chinese mind say you know you need a loyalty to the country, you need a devotion to your family. So, the two things it’s really difficult to put together. Usually action film, you need a loyalty, fight, be the bad guy. So, that’s a memory. Even my daughter, they grew up I don’t know where they heard Mulan, they just love their idol, you know. Mulan, Mulan. Yeah.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Was your daughter’s a reason why you maybe wanted to do this a little bit? Because you know be like yeah…”

Jet Li as The Emperor:

“Yeah, in the beginning I don’t want to take the movie, you know. And then my daughter said ask three questions why you turn down the movie. I said okay. She said, ‘First did you think promote Chinese culture is your responsibility in your life?’ I said, yes. She said, ‘Disney spent a million hundred million dollars to put all the actors in China, the Chinese actor, you know. Then the story talk of Mulan is not a Chinese culture?’ Oh, like stocked. Nice, okay. The second, do you need a lot of money?”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“(Laughs) She’s watching your finances.”

Jet Li as The Emperor:

“She said, third can you make the movie for me? That’s it. I’m so glad that he put me there, you know, work with wonderful group. The result, I think even everybody knows Mulan, but this Mulan has a lot of fresh new angle to share the culture to the younger generation.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Yeah that’s what I loved is how like it’s its own thing, um, what are you most excited for like this like crop of film fans to see in this version that maybe they don’t know is coming when they see it?”

Jet Li as The Emperor:

“Because you know, there have a lot of culture with a lot of angle you know, millions, millions of people, everybody in their mind have one kind of Mulan. You cannot make everybody happy; you know. You make Chinese Eastern, you know, everybody is happy but I think human is like a big family we’re living in the earth, but this Mulan I think across the border can show to the younger girls to the world everybody need to be tough, loyalty in a truth you know, faced to the difficult time. I think Thai is wonderful. It’s international Mulan. This is not the only traditional for traditional Chinese Mulan, that’s why I love it. Director, everybody did a wonderful job.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Yeah, I know. I completely agree. They also had me like crying, also I’m not going to lie. Watching it, I was like Jet Li? Like they had me tricking on you but I couldn’t tell it was you, but, uh, but I the minute I saw you fighting I was like, oh, there he is, um, and then I saw Donnie fighting and of course I’m like, okay, there he is. But I’m just wondering you know; you guys re-teaming did y’all maybe get together on set you know see who could do the cooler moves maybe?”

Jet Li as The Emperor:

“No, no, no. Not this time. Before, you know, we’re best friends, always call each other, you’ve been serving before, so, you take the most part, I take the part. We need to do it we’re not you know we discuss. But really work on the set, I only saw him once. Yeah, yeah. My character in this movie is just talk more than fighting. He did a wonderful job he’s a good guy, yeah.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Both of y’all did an absolutely wonderful job and I have to ask this one, although I’m sure you’ve been asked it a lot of times, who wins on the one-on-one? You and Donnie? I have my bet but I’m not going to say.”

Jet Li as The Emperor:

“Oh, who want to fight the best?”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Yeah, who’s going to win on the one-on-one?”

Jet Li as The Emperor:

“The movie company, or the director.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“(Laughs) Best, answer, ever.”

(Scene from “Mulan” 2020)

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“What is your name soldier?”

Yifei Liu as Mulan:

“Hua Jun, commander. Son of Hua Zhou.”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“We’re going to make men out of every single one of you.”

(Jacqueline Coley interviews Donnie Yen)

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“You’ve had some great entrances, your entrance in this one is absolutely, I think like…”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“I’m glad you liked it. I haven’t seen the film so, I don’t know.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“You haven’t seen it?”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“I haven’t seen it.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“I feel like I have a little secret. Well, I mean, but you shot it so, talk about like the fighting styles in this. You’ve done so many different types of fight choreography, but I feel like with this particular film, like Niki was going for something like really specific on camera.”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“Uh, she told me exactly what she envisioned, and she wanted how I play off Mulan, I mean that’s ultimately it’s about the movie itself, right. So, for me I just did my job, you know like any other movies. I came in with, as an actor, professional actor, understanding the role and I performed, and she liked it.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Well, obviously it’s pretty great. I can’t wait for you to see it, because I think you’re going to agree with me. You have a great time on it, um, this, uh, Mulan the Legend, is like, kind of like throughout Chinese culture and like, you don’t even probably remember the first time you heard the legend, I’m guessing. Like it was probably when you were a kid. Is that when you first like heard it?”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“Of course. This is based on the Chinese folk story, uh, history part of the Chinese culture but more importantly, my daughter grew up with this, the cartoon version, Disney version. So, I know all the songs inside out with my daughter, and we sang probably over 100 times. So, for me it’s part of her childhood as well as my younger days.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Yeah. Jet mentioned that his daughters were a big reason why he said yes to do the movie.”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“Same here. Same here. Exactly the same.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Um, and then he said that you guys, did you all call each other to make sure that…”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“Yes, are you doing the film? I said, yeah. Are you doing the film? I said I got it.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Uh, he also said that he was a little jealous that you got to do more fighting than he did. He says his role is a little bit more talking.”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“Actually, I wish it’s the other way around. I want to sit back and just kind of watch Yifei do her thing, right. But they want me to swing that sword around. So, I did.”

Jacqueline Coley (Editor, Rotten Tomatoes):

“Um, I agree with you that they did want you to swing the sword around. I enjoyed that a lot. Um, what are you most excited about for folks to see with this particular Mulan? Especially like what Niki did with the story. Because it’s very different but it’s amazing.”

Donnie Yen as Commander Tung:

“I think, uh, to make it short, I think, um, first of all you have to live up with the love for this, uh, piece from Disney. Because we all love Disney, but I think particularly Mulan, everyone loves Mulan. They represent a certain, in our era. Especially now the #MeToo movement. Like I think it’s so important to show the world that female can do anything male can. I know firsthand because my mother, she was a grandmaster in martial arts. She used to teach in Boston, and she was my mentor. As well as I have a daughter, a very powerful young lady and my production company, my partner, my wife which totally changed my life and she’s my boss. So, I know how it is you know, as a uh, the other part of uh, the gender. Women are just simply beautiful, so, this represents a whole lot.”

(Scene from “Mulan” 2020)

Yifei Liu as Mulan:

“I’m Hua Mulan. I will bring honor to us all.”




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