In Disney’s upcoming live-action remake of “Mulan,” the Chinese characters for “loyal,” “brave” and “true” are emblazoned on the titular character’s sword — and those three words certainly resonate with the stars of the film.
“Loyal, brave, true to her family and also to her true self,” Yifei Liu, who makes her international debut starring as Mulan, told Variety of what the words meant to her at the movie’s red carpet premiere Monday at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.
Liu looked every bit the Disney warrior princess for the big event, echoing old-school Hollywood glam with side-parted curls and a strapless gold Elie Saab gown with a flowing train. The 32-year-old is a superstar in her native China, where she is referred to as “fairy sister.”
When asked what the motto means to him, martial arts star Donnie Yen (Commander Tung) nodded to his three red carpet companions, his wife and two children, assigning each of them a virtue.
“My family. Look,” said Yen, smiling. “James, Jasmine and my wife, Cecilia. Loyal, brave and true.”
Ming-Na Wen, who voiced the title character in the 1998 animated feature “Mulan,” was on hand for the big premiere, as was Christina Aguilera, who sang the original film’s hit song “Reflection” and wrote the new tune “Loyal, Brave, True” for the live-action version’s soundtrack. The new “Mulan” boasts a budget of around $200 million — making it Disney’s most expensive live-action remake to date — and is the studio’s first to feature a cast of actors all of Asian descent, an experience that many of the cast members took to heart. Rosalind Chao, who plays Mulan’s mother, Li, compared the experience to becoming an “instant family.”
“It was pretty amazing. Everyone on set, the cast members and a lot of the crew members, were Chinese,” said Yoson An (Chen Honghui), who hails from Macau and New Zealand. “So, the moment we met each other there was an instant connection going. Like, ‘Hey, I know what food you like. You know what food I like. Let’s go get some food.’”
YouTube creator and actor Jimmy Wong (Ling) — who showed off a gel manicure with the “loyal,” “brave” and “true” Chinese characters, as well as eyeballs stylized in homage to Gong Li’s witch character, Xian Lang — shared that the novelty of being surrounded by other Asian actors wore off once production got underway.
“At first we were like, ‘Hey, look at us. We’re all the same culture, we share so many things about our background,’” Wong recalled. “And as time went on, we just sort of forgot it all. It felt really interesting to be like, I’m a part of this group but no longer are we being defined by the group. We’re being defined as actors on a project.”
Tzi Ma, who plays Mulan’s father, Zhou, also emphasized the thematic importance of family on-screen.
“I think it’s about compassion. It’s about family. It’s about fighting for the disenfranchised, and I think those are really important virtues that we all can embrace,” Ma explained.
As far as what the “Mulan” team hopes global audiences gain from watching the epic Chinese ballad adapted onto the big screen by Disney for the second time, Liu responded with words that could inspire an entire army: “Nothing is impossible.”
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