Who is Disney’s Mulan?

Chinese actress Liu Yifei 刘亦菲, age 30, has been chosen to star in Disney’s upcoming live-action film Mulan.

The story is adapted from Hua Mulan (花木兰 huā mùlán), a legendary Chinese tale at least 1,500 years old. Different versions of it are set in different dynasties, but the key element of the plot remains the same: The emperor drafts citizens into the army to go to war and each household must contribute one male. But Mulan’s father is old and frail, and her younger brother is a small child, so she dresses up as a man and goes to war. She proves to be a smart, tough, and excellent soldier.

Liu Yifei, the actress who will play Mulan, became famous at age 17 after her role in the popular TV series The Story of a Noble Family (金粉世家 jīnfěn shìjiā). She’s known for her roles in costume dramas and for her martial arts skills. She also speaks fluent English and lived in New York City for several years before returning to China in 2002.

Her first Hollywood appearance was in the film The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan in 2008.

However, not everyone approves of her casting in Mulan.

She has been called “box office poison,” as her recent films performed poorly. The Chinese Widow, which was released this month, only earned a total revenue of 26 million yuan ($3.9 million) out of the total production cost of more than 150 million yuan ($25 million).

But with Disney behind her, and her role as Mulan — one of the most popular Disney “princesses” — Liu might be set for global stardom.