We only ever see the finished product of films and dramas on the screen, but very rarely do we also get a peep at the audition tapes of stars who at one point were also unknowns in the industry. And while actress Crystal Liu Yifei isn’t exactly a green horn in entertainment, it’s still fun to see her audition tape for the part before we even see her kicking arse as Mulan!
Mulan director Niki Caro popped a short video on her Instagram today of a fresh faced Liu Yifei in character performing a few lines about chasing rabbits whilst riding a horse. The director also captioned it with a short background and how impressed they all were with her performance despite the jetlag from flying 14 hours from Beijing to the US for the audition.
A short clip from Yifei’s first audition scene. Also the first day I met her. She had traveled from Beijing the day before, and had not slept due to the punishing jet lag between China and US time zones. We needed to see her do four scenes, one of which had five pages of dialogue. All in her second language. The audition took 2 hours, and then she went for a physical training session for another 90 mins. She was deeply exhausted, but never asked for a break, was totally focused, committed, and consistently brilliant. I saw the depth of her talent, her physical strength, her artistry and her undeniable spirit. I knew I’d found a partner, a collaborator, and a warrior. We loved her so much we delayed the shoot 6 months to wait for her to become available. Best decision we ever made. 🌸#mulan #disney #yifei_cc #warrior #loyalbravetrue
In previous interviews, Niki had mentioned that in order to find their Mulan, production had to scour the world and audition more than a thousand hopefuls before they found her. So what made Liu Yifei stand out from the rest? Niki said that to make her disguise as a man convincing, whoever lands the character of Mulan should be able to hold her own while training together with the army. That meant that actresses auditioning for the role not only had to read for the part convincingly, they also had to undergo an exhaustive 90 minute physical assessment which involved some cardio tests and weight exercises as a requirement before getting the part. Liu Yifei clearly won everyone over to the point that the shoot was delayed for 6 months to accommodate the actress’s busy schedule.
Finding the right actress to play Mulan was the single most important decision we needed to make, so we cast the net wide. It was a global search, open to anyone who wanted to audition. Here are just a few of the thousands who went on tape for us. I was so moved by their love for the character, their sincerity, and excitement. I hope everyone who tried out for Mulan knows that their passion is woven into the fabric of our movie, and that that all played a part in helping me understand and appreciate how beloved and important Mulan is to so many 🌸#mulan #disney #yifei_cc #warrior #loyalbravetrue
While we’re on the subject of audition tapes, here are some clips of the other Mulan hopefuls who could’ve nabbed the coveted role had Liu Yifei not been in the picture.
As it turns out, there were quite a few familiar faces that include Chinese actresses Lyric Lan Yingying who most recently played Jin Dong’s leading lady in The Best Partner, Ora Yang Caiyu who is best known for the coming-of-age film Youth as well as Shang Yuxian and Zhang Yishang who were both part of the Detective Chinatown franchise. Chinese singer-songwriter Leah Dou who is the daughter of musicians Dou Wei and Faye Wong also auditioned for the part.