‘Mulan’: Ang Lee Turned Down Chance to Direct Disney’s Live-Action Adaptation

     October 12, 2016


Disney is trying to do right by Mulan — both in front of and behind the camera. The live-action adaptation is based on a spec script by Lauren Hynek and Elizabeth Martin that’s getting rewrites from Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, and the Mouse House is actively looking to fill the director’s chair with an Asian filmmaker. One name who was reportedly approached but passed on Mulan is Ang Lee.

THR mentioned the Life of Pi director in a report that Sony is also developing a film based on the Mulan tale. No reason was given for why Lee decided to pass on the project, but maybe it has something to do with Thrilla in Manila, his Muhammad Ali film which last year was said to be back on track.


Image via 20th Century Fox

There’s already pressure for Disney to get the story of Mulan right. A blog called Angry Asian Man penned an open letter to the studio over an alleged copy of the screenplay, which suggested the adaptation would be about a white man coming in to help the Chinese army to win the affections of Mulan. A later report clarified that this was just a jumping off point, but then you factor in the backlash over the casting of Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, and the Marvel parent company presumably doesn’t want a repeat of the matter.

Mulan is said to incorporate elements of both the literary ballad the animated Disney film. If it’s anything like the studio’s live-action Beauty and the Beast with musical numbers, then perhaps that could’ve been another reason Lee passed. But now we’re getting too far into the realm of speculation when there’s next to nothing to go on.

This is the latest in Disney’s trend of creating live-action interpretations of classic animated movies, including Cinderella, Maleficent, The Jungle Book, and Pete’s Dragon. Sony’s version of Mulan is said to be in the early stages of development with a script by Jason Keller.


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