'Mulan' Mania: Disney, Sony Hunt for Asian Directors to Helm Rival Action Pics

Mulan Mania - Mulan (1998) - Photofest - H 2016
Walt Disney Pictures/Photofest

A global search is on as the studios look to cast Chinese leads for their upcoming live-action adaptations of the animated hit (Disney's take is slated for a Nov. 2, 2018, release).

Two studios are looking to make some Mulan moolah. Both Disney and Sony are developing live-action adaptations of the ancient Chinese ballad about a young woman who disguises herself as a man to take her father's place in the army.

After the success of its live-action Cinderella ($543.5 million worldwide), Disney (which made 1998's animated version) began developing a live-action take on Mulan in early 2015. The studio bought a spec script by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin, then hired Jurassic World's Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver to rewrite. Insiders say the studio liked the rewrite so much that it fast-tracked the project, dating the 3D film for Nov. 2, 2018.

Disney is moving quickly to find a director, ideally Asian (Ang Lee was approached but passed; the studio is out to others), and there will be a global search to find a Chinese lead actress and love interest. Sony, too, is seeking an Asian director for its project, according to sources, and plans to feature a predominantly Asian cast. That project, with a script by Mirror Mirror's Jason Keller, is said to be in very early development through the studio's international production group (with Doug Belgrad co-financing via his new banner 2.0 Entertainment) and likely would hit theaters long after Disney's version.

Competing with Disney in the live-action fable business is tough: April's The Jungle Book earned $966.2 million worldwide, while Warner Bros.' rival take has been delayed to 2018. 

This story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.