‘Whale Rider’ Director To Helm Live-Action ‘Mulan’

By February 16, 2017
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While there’s still a long way to go, the Walt Disney Co. is working hard toward better gender equality when it comes to directing big-budget films after signing Niki Caro to produce its live-action version of Mulan.

Caro, whose latest film The Zookeeper’s Wife is set to hit theaters at the end of next month, will take on Disney’s attempt to de-animate its animated classics. The live-action version of Mulan follows a trend that began all the way back in 2010 with Alice in Wonderland, and is set to continue March 17 with Beauty and the Beast.

Caro is just the second woman to helm a Disney film with a budget more than $100 million, according to The Hollywood Reporter, following Ava DuVernay’s work on A Wrinkle in Time.

Caro is best known, most likely, for her first hit as a director, Whale Rider in 2002, which starred Keisha Castle-Hughes among others. More recently, Caro directed McFarland USA, which earned $45.7 million globally.

Disney says it remains committed to ensuring Mulan finds a Chinese cast, including the lead for its title role. To help bolster that, the studio has added Bill Kong as an executive producer. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Caro will be charged with bringing the film to fruition by a Nov. 2, 2018 debut date. She’ll also be expected to continue the winning streak (more or less) of Disney live-action outings.

That started with Alice in 2010, which grossed $1 billion globally. It was followed by Maleficent (from 1959’s Sleeping Beauty) in 2014 with $758.5 million, and Cinderella the next year at $534.6 million.

Last year’s The Jungle Book hauled in $963.9 million.

In all, the films earned $3.3 billion, compared to the original animated films, which combined attracted $1.7 billion, when adjusted for inflation.

The 1998 animated version of Mulan earned $303.5 million for Disney.

Caro also has directed the premiere episode for Anne, a series based on the 1908 novel Anne of Green Gables, set to debut on Netflix in May.

There is some bad news with this, however, according to the trade publication. By getting Mulan, it seems almost certain Caro is no longer in the running to helm the upcoming Captain Marvel film.

The screenplay for Mulan was written by Lauren Hynek, Rick Jaffa, Elizabeth Martin and Amanda Silver. Sony Pictures is planning its own film about Hua Mulan, who really was a fifth century Chinese warrior.

Film studios have made movies about Mulan dating back to 1927 with Hua Mulan Joins the Army from the Chinese studio Tianyi Film Co.

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Michael Hinman

Michael Hinman

Managing Editor at GeekNation
Michael has spent more than 18 years of his way-long journalism career in entertainment reporting as the founder of SyFy Portal, which would become Airlock Alpha after he sold the SyFy brand to NBC Universal. He's based in New York City.