Jet Li accepted Mulan role at request of daughter in order to promote Chinese culture

The unrecognisable Jet Li in Mulan. (PHOTO: Disney)
The unrecognisable Jet Li in Mulan. (PHOTO: Disney)

Jet Li, whose name is synonymous with martial arts, revealed in an interview that he signed up for Mulan at the insistence of his 15-year-old daughter, Jada.

“When my younger daughter, Jada, heard about Mulan, she asked me if she could ask three questions,” said Li. “I said ‘okay.’ For the first one, she asked if I felt proud of promoting Chinese culture to the world. ‘That’s your responsibility,’ she said. I said, ‘yes, I love to share Chinese culture to the world.’”

The second question proved to be a bit of a trick question as his daughter asked him if he “needed the money”. The star replied no, and she moved on to the last question: whether Disney was making the film to promote Chinese culture.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know how to answer,” Li replied. But Jada pressed further and asked her father, “Can you make the movie for me?” to which he said yes. “That’s how I decided to make this film.”

Based on a Chinese legend, the movie is about a young woman named Mulan (played by Liu Yifei) who lives with her family in an idyllic village that is attacked by invaders, a band of Rouran raiders led by Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee).

Liu Yifei plays Mulan.  (PHOTO: Jasin Boland/Disney)
Liu Yifei plays Mulan. (PHOTO: Jasin Boland/Disney)

Jet Li plays the regal Emperor, who decrees that one man from every family in China must join his army to fend off the invaders. Mulan steps in when she realised her elderly father (Tzi Ma) was tasked to join the army training camp. She then disguises herself as a male soldier and makes off to the camp herself.

It wasn’t easy for the wushu master to play a king. For starters, we couldn’t recognise him from the heavy costume and makeup!

Li shared that he faced two challenges when filming: “The costume was a challenge. I don’t know why people like to be kings or emperors. When you are a king, you wear clothes that look very pretty but are heavy and uncomfortable. You cannot even move. When I think about ancient China or the ancient world, I wonder why people want to become king. For my personal taste, I like freedom.”

“And the second thing is the language. Making English-speaking movies is not easy for me. I’m very lazy at learning English. Well, any foreign language. So, that’s why I appreciated my dialogue coach, who worked with me to help me with my lines,” said Li.

Mulan opens in cinemas across Malaysia and Singapore on 4 Sept 2020.