The Live-Action 'Mulan' Will Not Feature a White Male Lead After All

Nick Schager
The characters Mulan and Li Shang in 'Mulan' (Photo: Disney)
The characters Mulan and Li Shang in ‘Mulan’ (Photo: Disney)

Disney’s recent live-action remakes of animated classics like Cinderella and The Jungle Book have hewed closely to their source material. And from the little we’ve seen of it so far, the studio will likely continue that trend with next March’s Beauty and the Beast. So it came as something of a surprise when, on Monday, an anonymous post on the Angry Asian Man blog claimed that they’d read an early script for Disney’s upcoming re-do of their $304 million-grossing 1998 hit Mulan, and that this new version would feature a white, male “30-something European trader” as the story’s de facto lead — a severe departure from the animated original, which featured the female Chinese hero Mulan and a male Chinese compatriot Li Shang as her eventual romantic interest.

Outrage quickly ensued online (via the hashtag #MakeMulanRight) and was stoked by actor Joel de La Fuente’s claim that he, too, had read this iteration of the script.

A source close to the production — which has already announced a global casting search for an Asian woman to play Mulan — quickly sought to quell the brewing controversy. Both Vanity Fair and Vulture landed the following response: “The spec script was a jumping-off point for a new take on the story that draws from both the literary ballad of Mulan and Disney’s 1998 animated film. Mulan is, and will always be, the lead character in the story, and all primary roles, including the love interest, are Chinese.”

Given the source material — as well as the fact that the production is in its early stages, and thus still malleable — the vehement response to the Mulan rumor is wholly understandable. Nonetheless, it appears that the live-action feature will not go down the “white savior” route.