By now, you’d have known (or heard) that Ming-Na Wen, the actress who voiced Mulan in Disney’s 1998 animated feature, has a surprise — well, not anymore — cameo in the live-action action version starring Liu Yifei.
In an interview with The New York Times, Wen, 56, explained how she nearly miss her chance to be in the new Mulan.
“It all started with the fans tweeting about it, saying, ‘You have to be a part of it!’” said Wen of the fans’ social media campaigns to get her involved in the movie. “I asked my manager and my agent if that would be a possibility because I thought that would be kind of fun.”
That led to a meeting producer Jason Reed who "loved the idea". But there was one problem: Wen was busy working on the final season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Mulan scribes had wanted Wen to play the mother-in-law of who would appear during the movie’s matchmaker’s sequence. But that role required Wen to spend a month in New Zealand, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. producers couldn’t afford to let her go for that long a period.
Just when Wen was about to give up on the cameo, Reed and director Niki Caro pitched her another role: the part of “Esteemed Guest” who introduces Mulan to the Emperor (Jet Li) in the movie’s finale. This time, Wen only had to be on set for a week.
“I thought that was very appropriate and just wonderful, a little Easter egg where I could pass the baton,” said Wen of her cameo.
Elsewhere in the interview, Wen also shared her thoughts on the live-action adaptation’s decision to omit the iconic hair-cutting sequence from the 1998 animated original. “I’m sure [Liu] Yifei is going to get incredible accolades as the live-action Mulan, but I hope everyone will still have a little place in their hearts for the animated Mulan," Wen said. “I mean, at least she cut her hair!”
The hair-lopping scene was dropped because it wasn’t historically accurate. Reed had previously said in a Slash Film interview, “In the Disney film, the scene where she’s cutting her hair off, it’s actually an anachronism. So Chinese warriors, male warriors wore their hair long. Chinese men wore their hair long… Since we’re doing the live action version, because we’re looking at the worldwide market we thought we had to bring that level of cultural accuracy to it.”
Over the years, that hair-cutting sequence has become synonymous with the LGBTQ representation. “I was blown away when these beautiful young women and boys from the LGBTQ community would come up to me crying because Mulan was a representation for them, and they latched on to the images of her transforming herself into a boy,” said Wen. “There was so much about the film that was an extra plus like that."
Photos: TPG News/Click Photos