Casting directors traversed five continents and auditioned 1,000 candidates before eventually choosing 30-year-old Liu for the role of Hua Mulan, who impersonates a man to take her father's army conscription and fight against the Huns in fifth-century China.
Liu, who has served as a brand ambassador for Dior, Tissot, Garnier and Pantene, most recently starred in the fantasy romance Once Upon a Time, which earned $82.3 million in China this summer. She's since gone on to star in 2008's The Forbidden Kingdom alongside Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and then 2014's Outcast with Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen.
Disney has enrolled a Chinese on-screen character to star in the title part of its cutting edge variant of "Mulan".
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The actress, in addition to obviously having those martial arts chops, is known in China for her acting abilities as well, and has won awards there for films beloved in the country.
A source close to the film's production told Forbes contributor Rob Cain that Liu had managed to win the role of Mulan by "working hard and delivering a great audition". A master of the regal red carpet look, she regularly chooses high-drama pieces that highlight her delicate beauty.
"The studio and the filmmakers have bent over backwards trying to find someone who checks everyone's boxes, which, as you know, is impossible", the source said. Chris Bender, Jason Reed and Jake Weiner will be producing the film. While Mulan is not necessarily canonically queer (and even that depends on who you ask), trust me when I say that those of us young Disney fans enmeshed in questions about our own gender identity found a wonderful kindred spirit in the nation-saving hero.