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Chinese actress Liu Yifei cast as lead in live-action remake of 'Mulan'

by Lakshmi Gandhi /
 Actress Liu Yifei arrives at the red carpet of the 7th Beijing International Film Festival on April 16, 2017 in Beijing. Lintao Zhang / Getty Images file

Disney has cast the title character of its upcoming live-action remake of "Mulan," a Walt Disney Studios spokesperson confirmed to NBC News Wednesday.

Actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, will play Mulan in director Niki Caro’s adaptation of the 1998 animated film. Liu has previously appeared in 2008's "The Forbidden Kingdom" alongside Jackie Chan and Jet Li as well as in films and TV in China.

The casting was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, which noted that the filmmakers wanted to ensure the role went to an ethnically Chinese woman in deference to the story Mulan is based on. Chinese-American actress Ming-Na Wen voiced the character in the 1998 animated film.

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In a statement, the studio said the film will be “inspired by both the legendary ballad and the Disney animated classic.” Both tell the story of Hua Mulan, a young Chinese woman who disguised herself as a man to take her father’s place when he was conscripted into the army during the fifth century.

While Liu may not be familiar to Western audiences, she is considered one of China's most popular actresses and has been nicknamed the “Fairy Sister” by fans and the media.

"Mulan" is expected to be released in 2019. In its statement, Disney said more announcements about the film "will be made in the coming weeks.”

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