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Disney’s live-action Mulan remake is losing a character and adding Jet Li

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Li is in talks to play the emperor of China

Shan Yu, the villainous leader of the Huns in Disney’s Mulan (1998). Walt Disney Studios

Disney’s live-action remake of the company’s 1998 hit, Mulan, cast several major roles this week, including its main villain.

But that main villain might look a little different than fans of the 1998 animated hit, based on the Chinese folktale, might expect. Disney’s Mulan gave us Shan Yu, a ruthless — but not particularly multifaceted — leader of the Huns as an antagonist. For its 2020 remake, Disney’s screenwriters are significantly resetting the story’s forces of evil.

Chinese actress Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha, Miami Vice) has signed on to play the villain of Mulan, according to the Hollywood Reporter, a “powerful witch.” It sounds like the new story will be injecting a bit more magic in to the setting than in the original — but then again, it was a movie with a comedic talking dragon.

Gong Li will be joined by the (previously announced) Liu Yifei (The Forbidden Kingdom) in the title role of Mulan, and Jet Li (Romeo Must Die, Fearless), who, the Hollywood Reporter relates, is in final talks to play the emperor of China. Donnie Yen (Ip Man, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) also joined the cast of the film this week, in the role of Mulan’s “mentor,” Commander Tung.