The woman behind the Mulan live-action remake

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The original Mulan was released by Disney in 1998

The live-action remake of Disney’s classic Mulan now has a director and her name is Niki Caro.

You may not recognise her, but she is very quickly climbing the Hollywood ladder, having directed films such as Whale Rider (2002) and the soon-to-be released The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Her new role at the helm of Mulan will make the New Zealander only the fifth woman to direct a movie budgeted at over $100m (£80.2m).

And, money aside, the pressure on the new Mulan is high – fans are watching very closely to see how Disney is managing the project.

Which is understandable, because the original animated film was a firm staple in the movie diet of anyone who was under 14 when it came out.

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Getty Images

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Niki Caro has previously directed Whale Rider and The Zookeeper’s Wife

The original Mulan grossed $304m (£244m) worldwide when it was released in 1998.

It tells the story of a young Chinese girl who who learns that her weak father is to be called upon to join the army.

Worrying that he would never survive the hardship of war, she disguises herself and joins in his place.

In September, 18 years after it was released, Disney announced Mulan would be the latest film to receive a live-action remake.

The studio has also given The Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast non-animated makeovers recently.

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Ming-Na Wen voiced the character of Fa Mulan in the original film

Fans are watching with interest to see who is being hired to star and work on the film, which features mostly Chinese characters.

Disney have made clear they intend to shoot the Mulan remake in China, with a mostly Chinese cast.

A petition calling on Disney not to “whitewash” the film by casting white actors has attracted more than 111,000 signatures.

Who is Niki Caro?

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Jesse Grant

  • The writer and director was born in 1967 in Wellington, New Zealand
  • Her first feature film as a director, Memory and Desire, was released in 1998
  • Caro’s other directorial credits include Whale Rider and The Zookeeper’s Wife, which stars Jessica Chastain
  • Mulan won’t be the first time Caro has worked with Disney, as she previously directed 2015’s McFarland, USA

There have been a number of recent high-profile movies which have been criticised for hiring an actor who is of a different race to the character they’re playing.

Matt Damon recently denied his casting in The Great Wall had robbed a Chinese actor of the role.

The Hollywood-Chinese co-production, directed by Zhang Yimou, features a predominantly Chinese cast, but Damon was given the lead part.

Nina, the biopic of singer Nina Simone, also sparked complaints after lead actress Zoe Saldana’s skin was made slightly darker on screen.

Her casting as Simone was criticised when it was announced in 2012, with the singer’s daughter suggesting she was “not the best choice”.

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Getty Images

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The story has previously been made into a dance stage show, The Legend of Mulan

Prior to Niki Caro’s appointment as director of the new Mulan, the only woman to direct a Disney project budgeted at more than $100m was Ava DuVernay.

She’s currently directing the fantasy adventure A Wrinkle in Time, which is released next year.

Outside of the Disney bubble, DuVernay is also the first black woman to direct a movie with a $100m budget in film history.

It’s an industry-wide problem: Hollywood has notoriously few female directors.

Only one – Kathryn Bigelow – has won an Oscar for best director, while just 7% of the directors of the top 250 films of 2016 were women, according to Variety.

Could Niki Caro’s appointment as the director of Mulan be a small step towards seeing more women behind the camera?

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