Let’s get down to business: Disney’s Mulan remake has finally found its director. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news on Tuesday that the studio has hired New Zealand-based director Niki Caro, whose credits include Whale Rider, North Country, and upcoming drama The Zookeeper’s Wife, to direct the new live-action adaptation of the 1998 animated classic. The announcement, according to the Reporter, makes Caro the second female director ever to helm a (live-action) Disney movie with a budget over $100 million. (Ava DuVernay, director of the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time, is set to be the first.)
Caro’s breakout film was 2002’s Whale Rider, which stars Keisha Castle-Hughes as a Māori girl who defies gender stereotypes to lead her people, while North Country features a woman fighting for equal rights in the workplace. That makes Caro well-suited for a movie like Mulan, which is based on the Chinese folk tale about a woman disguising herself as a man to take her father’s place in the army. Previous reports suggested that Disney was seeking an Asian director and had spoken with Ang Lee (who passed for scheduling reasons) and Jiang Wen about the project.
In light of hiring a non-Asian director, the studio seems eager to assure fans that the film will in fact cast Chinese actors in the lead roles, despite an early spec script that had added a white lead as a love interest for Mulan. The Reporter also announced that Bill Kong, who has produced notable crossover wuxia films such as Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has also boarded as executive producer.
Mulan is just one of a slew of live-action adaptations of the studio’s most popular animated films, which include Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast, which comes out in March. The Mulan remake, a blend of the original legend and the 1998 animated movie, is scheduled for release in November 2018.