Wellington Scoop

Niki Caro to direct major Disney film, with Chinese stars

A Wellington-born director is preparing to make a major Disney film, to be shot in China and New Zealand.

Niki Caro, who earned international fame with Whale Rider in 2002, is to be directing two big Chinese stars – Gong Li and Jet Li – in the new film, which is titled Mulan.

The Hollywood Reporter says the Beijing-born Jet Li is one of China’s biggest and most enduring crossover stars. The martial arts champion became a superstar in Asia on the strength of franchises like Shaolin Temple and Once Upon a Time in China. He then made films in Hollywood including Lethal Weapon 4 and Romeo Must Die.

Gong Li, who is to play the witch villain in the new film, has won two best actress awards at the Venice Film Festival. Her best known films include Red Sorghum, Raise the Red Lantern, and Farewell My Concubine.

The cast will also include New Zealand Chinese-Vietnamese actress Xana Tang, who has had roles in Filthy Rich and The Letdown.

Since Niki Caro directed Whale Rider in 2002, she has made three feature films (North Country, McFarland USA, and The Zookeeper’s Wife) in the United States. Two of her films have earned Academy Award nominations for their actresses: Keisha Castle-Hughes (Best Actress, Whale Rider), Charlize Theron (Best Actress, North Country), and Frances McDormand (Best Supporting Actress, North Country).