Chi­nese star lands Mu­lan role amid ‘ white­wash­ing’ claims

Weekend Herald - - World - In Bei­jing Tele­graph Group Ltd

Neil Con­nor

Chi­nese film fans were re­joic­ing yes­ter­day af­ter one of their favourite ac­tresses landed the star role in a Dis­ney block­buster amid an on­go­ing row over “white­wash­ing” in Hol­ly­wood.

Liu Yifei, 30, known as Fairy Sis­ter in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try for her sweet and del­i­cate im­age, is to play the lead in an adap­ta­tion of the 1998 car­toon about Hua Mu­lan, a leg­endary fe­male war­rior from an­cient China.

The cast­ing de­ci­sion comes af­ter sev­eral Hol­ly­wood films were lam­basted in China for cast­ing white West­ern ac­tors in Asian roles.

More than 100,000 peo­ple signed a pe­ti­tion call­ing for an Asian ac­tress to be cho­sen for Mu­lan and there were wide­spread cel­e­bra­tions in China af­ter Dis­ney’s de­ci­sion. “This is huge progress and great thing,” said Tan Fei, a Chi­nese film com­men­ta­tor. “This means the West has treated the Chi­nese mar­ket and Chi­nese ac­tors in a pos­i­tive way,” he said.

Dis­ney screen- tested nearly 1000 can­di­dates, seek­ing an English speaker with mar­tial arts skills, ac­cord­ing to the Hol­ly­wood Re­porter.

Liu is flu­ent in English, af­ter she lived in New York when she was younger. She be­gan in tele­vi­sion be­fore ap­pear­ing in 2008’ s The For­bid­den King­dom, which starred Jet Li and Jackie Chan.

Tan said: “What is more im­por­tant is that pre­vi­ously Chi­nese ac­tors in West­ern movies played non- es­sen­tial roles, but this time Liu will play the lead­ing role.”

Hol­ly­wood has faced a string of ac­cu­sa­tions of “white­wash­ing” in re­cent years.

Many Chi­nese film­go­ers were an­gry last year when Matt Da­mon was cast in the lead role for The Great Wall, which was set in an­cient China.

Con­stance Wu, a Tai­wane­seAmer­i­can ac­tress, said ahead of the film’s re­lease: “We have to stop per­pet­u­at­ing the racist myth that only a white man can save the world.”

The cast­ing of Scar­lett Jo­hann­son in Ghost in the Shell, Hol­ly­wood’s re­make of the Ja­panese anime of the same name, also pro­voked a storm of crit­i­cism, while Emma Stone’s role as Al­li­son Ng in Aloha sparked anger as did Tilda Swin­ton’s cast­ing in Doc­tor Strange as The An­cient One, orig­i­nally a Ti­betan monk in the Marvel comics.

Ed Skrein, a Bri­tish ac­tor, turned

Liu Yifei

down the role of Ma­jor Ben Daimio in a new Hell­boy film ear­lier this year be­cause the char­ac­ter i s of Asian her­itage.

The news that Liu has been cast as the lead role in Mu­lan also trig­gered ju­bi­la­tion on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia.

“I am so happy, I am go­ing to ex­plode,” said one com­ment. “She is the first Chi­nese Hol­ly­wood Princess.”

How­ever, Quartzy, a life­style web­site, says Liu i s one of China’s worst ac­tresses.

It said that on Douban, a lead­ing Chi­nese film fo­rum, Liu cur­rently holds an av­er­age rat­ing of 5.2 out of 10 for more than 20 films in which she has starred.

Mu­lan will be di­rected by Niki Caro and is ex­pected to be re­leased in 2019.

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