Disney’s Live-Action ‘Mulan’ Taps ‘Whale Rider’ Director Niki Caro
The recent results of USC’s annual study pegged Disney as one of the worst offenders when it comes to hiring diverse directors, which makes today’s news pretty darn positive: The studio has tapped director Niki Caro (best known for Whale Rider) to helm their live-action reimagining of Mulan, making her the second woman to direct a film with a budget of over $100 million for Disney — that’s the second woman ever in the entire history of the studio.
THR reports that Disney’s live-action version of Mulan has found a director in Niki Caro, who most recently helmed the World War II drama The Zookeeper’s Wife, starring Jessica Chastain. Veteran Hong Kong producer Bill Kong, whose credits include Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has been brought in to executive produce the project, while Disney is enlisting their own China-based team along with Chinese cultural consultants to maintain the authenticity of the film.
The studio initially wanted to hire an Asian director for Mulan, which is based on a classic Chinese ballad and tells the story of a legendary woman warrior who takes her aging father’s place in the army. After Ang Lee turned it down, Disney reached out to Jiang Wen, the Chinese co-star of Rogue One — who also happens to be a rather successful director in his home country. After failing to find an Asian director, Disney began talks with various women, including Michelle MacLaren of Breaking Bad fame and Patty Jenkins, who recently wrapped on Wonder Woman.
Ultimately, they went with Caro, who also directed the studio’s true-life sports drama MacFarland, USA. As THR notes, this probably takes her out of the running for Captain Marvel; Caro was on the short list to direct Marvel’s long-awaited solo female superhero film, along with Homeland’s Lesli Linka Glatter and acclaimed indie filmmaker Lorene Scafaria.
As of now, Disney has Ava DuVernay helming A Wrinkle in Time, Ryan Coogler on Marvel’s Black Panther, and Niki Caro on Mulan. Although currently still without a director, Captain Marvel has a screenplay by Guardians of the Galaxy scribe Nicole Perlman and Inside Out co-writer Meg LeFauve; Marvel head Kevin Feige has repeatedly assured fans and critics alike that the studio is hiring a woman to helm their first female-fronted superhero film.
In the grand scheme of things, these are just a few drops in a big bucket that’s been empty for far too long — but it’s hard to complain about Disney taking steps in the right direction, no matter the size.