Mulan premiere

The World Premiere of Mulan Celebrates a Timeless Tale

By Zach Johnson

China’s greatest warrior brought honor to us all Monday at the world premiere of Mulan. All eyes were on Yifei Liu, who stars as Hua Mulan in the live-action adventure from The Walt Disney Studios, as she arrived on the red carpet at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The Chinese actress was joined by director Niki Caro, co-stars Jet Li and Donnie Yen, and Disney Legends Christina Aguilera and Ming-Na Wen at the premiere.

The new film draws inspiration from both the 1998 animated classic and the centuries-old narrative poem “The Ballad of Mulan.” According to Caro, “This story has always been ripe for retelling. It’s been relevant for 1,300 years, but never more relevant than now. And in 2020, the opportunity to reimagine it for a global audience is truly exciting.”

Mulan premiere

According to screenwriter Rick Jaffa, “For Mulan to become truly empowered, she has to be true to who she really is.” To that end, screenwriter Amanda Silver said, “It’s a female empowerment story, of course, which is very timely for today—but it really does transcend that. Anybody, male or female, can learn that lesson. Be true to who you are.”

More than 1,000 actresses had tried out for the lead role before Caro discovered Liu three years ago. “I put her through the most punishing audition any actress has ever been put through,” the director said with a laugh. “Having flown from Beijing to Los Angeles, and not having slept for two days, that young woman never flamed out! She never gave up. She never asked to stop. I knew in the end that we’d found our warrior.”

Even before the cameras rolled, Liu and her co-stars spent months preparing to play soldiers in the Imperial Army. “It was pretty intense. We would train for five to seven hours a day, five days a week, for four months—and that was before filming,” said Yoson An, who plays Chen Honghui. “We would train after filming, too. We would film for 12 hours, then train for two hours after that. We’d eat, sleep, repeat until it was over.”

Mulan premiere

Jimmy Wong, who plays Ling, said they learned everything from how to ride horses to how to do stunts. “We worked together with every single person in the cast,” he said. “We needed it! You need that inspiration and your friends around to say, ‘Hey, you can do this!’ Because there were a lot of times when you’d think, ‘I’m tapping out.’ But when everyone is still going, you’re like, ‘If they don’t stop, I’m not going to stop, either.’”

Time and again, the cast and crew commended Caro for creating such a collaborative environment on set. “Big props to Niki Caro for being such a fantastic director with such a strong vision,” Wong said. First assistant Liz Tan added, “On Niki’s sets, we always have fun. We take the work seriously—and we honor the work—but we had a lot of fun.”

The film’s cast and crew all said great care went into bringing the story of Mulan to life. As Yen, who plays a new character, Commander Tung, told us, “What better way to present the richness and beauty of Chinese culture than by having Disney behind it?”

Before Mulan opens in U.S. theaters March 27, enjoy more photos from the premiere: