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As events throughout Hollywood and beyond continue to be canceled amidst the coronavirus outbreak, Disney, much like the titular heroine of its latest film, fought through to premiere its live-action take on Mulan in Los Angeles on Monday.
On the handshake-free red carpet, chatter about the illness — which has halted the film’s China release completely and threatens its international box office as theaters close and wary moviegoers stay home — ran rampant, but the disease seems to not have been enough to delay or alter the film’s release date as it did for the latest James Bond installment.
“It’s obviously a tricky situation and day-to-day, but all we can do is hope everyone stays healthy and audiences around the world are able to see it because we want people to see it — but it’s an unprecedented, tricky situation,” producer Chris Bender told The Hollywood Reporter of the film’s release plans.
Executive producer Barrie M. Osborne added, “Hopefully we develop precautions and if we are screening it then there’s protection and everyone’s washing hands and no one’s shaking hands and all of those things, but it’s a concern. We hope for the best and I think it’s an exciting movie that will play for a long time, regardless of the virus.” Producer Jason T. Reed chimed in of the strategy in China: “I think we’ll release the movie when it works best for the movie and for the public health officials who are trying to contain the virus,” saying that despite Disney’s carefully crafted release schedule, “whenever we release the movie I think people are going to enjoy it.”
With thousands of international attendees descending upon the Dolby Theater for the premiere, restrooms were full of people washing their hands, the lobby was stocked with hand sanitizer and afterparty bites were dished out by gloved waiters rather than in typical buffet style. Director Niki Caro also sent thoughts to those in China affected by the illness ahead of the screening, and thanked those who are working to fight the coronavirus: “You are a living testament to Mulan, and you bring honor to us all.”
Caro, who helmed the remake with a $200 million budget — the priciest of Disney’s live-action adaptations so far — told THR that she wanted to make her version more of a female war epic than include the musical and magical elements of the original as “it was the acknowledgement that when you make something in live action you make it real.”
The film also included a mostly female-led crew, as the director said, “this movie is a really good example of what it looks like when women tell stories on film at this scale.”
“It’s a story about a young woman and it’s been told, literally for centuries, by men, so I think it’s time to hear it told by women,” co-screenwriter Amanda Silver added of the story, which started as a legend in the fifth or sixth century CE.
As for star Yifei Liu, who is originally from Wuhan, China, but lives in Beijing, stepping into the iconic role of the heroine, who pretends to be a man to join the military in place of her elderly father, admitted she had “these nerves at the beginning and didn’t know what to expect,” but with the encouragement from her director and co-stars, “this was one of my best experiences of filmmaking.” She added that she hopes the female warrior story will encourage audiences to “love your family unconditionally and yourself, too.”
The star-studded premiere also welcomed castmembers Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Jet Li, Tzi Ma, Yoson An and Ron Yuan, as well as Christina Aguilera (who has an original song in the film) and guests Naomi Scott, Henry Golding, Kathryn Hahn, Chrissy Metz, Lana Condor and Marsai Martin.
Mulan hits theaters March 27.
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