Disney's Live-Action 'Mulan' Finds Director (Exclusive)
Niki Caro will helm the film, while ‘Crouching Tiger’ producer Bill Kong is joining as executive producer.
Niki Caro, who broke through with the 2002 Maori family drama
In an industry where female-helmed tentpoles are still rare, Caro will be the second woman at the studio to direct a movie budgeted at over $100 million. (Ava DuVernay is the first, with
Caro’s most recent film, Focus’ upcoming
, has been praised for its gender-inclusive set by its star, Jessica Chastain. Disney previously worked with Caro, a New Zealand native, on the 2015 cross-country drama
, for which she lived in central California for nearly a year to immerse herself in the Mexican-American community there.
Disney also considered other women for its woman-warrior project, including
reported last August that she was on the short list of directors for that film, along with
’s Lesli Linka Glatter and Lorene Scafaria, who helmed 2012’s
Disney and producers Chris Bender, Jason Reed and Jake Weiner are taking pains to assure fans that
will be culturally authentic. The studio had initially sought an Asian director for the project, meeting with Ang Lee (who passed, citing scheduling) and
star Jiang Wen, a hit director in his native China. Sony, which is developing a rival live-action film about the Chinese legend, also hoped to put an Asian director at the helm, but ultimately hired television veteran Alex Graves.
In addition to extensive conversations with Chinese cultural consultants and working closely with Disney’s own China-based team, the studio is bringing on Hong Kong-based super-producer Bill Kong as executive producer. Kong produced the most successful Chinese films to cross over —
, for which he received an Oscar nomination — as well as many of China’s biggest hits, including
Last fall, controversy briefly arose when reports surfaced that the original spec that Disney purchased, written by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, featured non-Chinese characters, including a white male lead. Disney quickly responded that Mulan and all primary characters in its movie, which has been rewritten by
’s Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, will remain Chinese. The studio is focusing its casting search in mainland China for the main roles, including the legendary woman warrior herself.
Caro is repped by UTA, Artists House and Lichter Grossman.
Rebecca Ford and Borys Kit contributed to this story.
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