Another major player in Disney’s upcoming live-action adaptation of Mulan starring Chinese actress Liu Yifei has been cast: Hong Kong actor, martial artist, choreographer, and all-around badass Donnie Yen will be playing the role of Commander Tung. Commander Tung, like General Shang of the animated movie, will be Mulan’s mentor and teacher in combat and military expertise. Unlike Shang, however, Tung does not appear to be Mulan’s love interest in the movie. Another big narrative change will be the story taking place during the reign of the Tang Dynasty instead of the Han.
The 54-year-old veteran actor and martial arts master truly has both the onscreen and off screen credentials to portray a military commander in ancient China.
Donnie Yen is credited with popularizing mixed martial arts in mainstream Chinese films and Wing Chun around the world. Years after Bruce Lee demonstrated that style of kung-fu to his movie audiences, Yen revitalized interest in the school.
In addition to being one of the highest paid Asian actors in the world, he is a master in several disciplines, including Wing Chun, Tai Chi, Boxing, Kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Karate, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, and Wushu. Yen has also won several martial arts tournaments.
Recently, he dazzled audiences as blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe in 2016’s Star Wars anthology prequel, Rogue One. His character plowed through an entire squadron of Stormtroopers with only his senses and a wooden staff. Earlier that year, Yen also starred as antihero Xiang in the action sequel XXX: Return of Xander Cage. In one of that film’s many climactic battle scenes, he got to throw Emmy-nominated character actress Toni Collette’s character out of a plane.
Mulan’s release date was recently pushed backed to 2020. The project has been the subject of intense scrutiny amidst fears of it being whitewashed.
Yen’s casting is clearly a step in the right direction!