How Jason Scott Lee Was Rejected and Then Cast as the Villain in Disney’s ‘Mulan’

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Actor Jason Scott Lee has history with Disney, having portrayed Mowgli in the 1994 live action film version of The Jungle Book and provided his voice for Lilo & Stitch and its sequel, but he revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that there was doubt about his casting to play the lead villain in the live-action film remake of Mulan. In fact, he explains that it took a meeting with Mulan director Niki Caro in New Zealand before he was finally cast.

Regarding his ability to pull off the role, Lee says, “I think there were big questions as to whether I could play the baddie, but I think there were also people in my favor who felt like I had shown that depth as an actor over the course of my career with other projects. I don’t have any airs or anything, but I think Niki [Caro] had a hard time seeing me in the role of Bori Khan. I had to tell her about my process and how I understood why she felt that I did not have that kind of thing she was looking for in Bori Khan. So, with the Disney folks that did remember my work, I think they felt like I was the right guy, and that I could pull it off if given the rope.”

Going into more detail, Lee reveals that he was initially rejected for the part because of what he feels was a terrible Skype audition. However, thankfully, after some time passed Disney and Caro wanted a closer look:

“The auditioning process was really long. It came first as a Skype audition, and I think Skype auditions are completely botched. It was terrible. I came off very bad, and it’s funny because they ended up passing on me. And, of course, Disney’s very tight with material. They don’t let you read anything. They’re not going to give you a script to look at, so you’re kind of flying blind. So I had done the Skype audition, and I didn’t hear back for almost a year. Radio silence. Nothing. And then, they said, ‘Oh, we’ve changed some things around.’ I believe they were going down another road with another actor and then, they kind of came back around and said, ‘We want you to do another taping. And this time, it’s going to be different.’ So I did that. I sent it in and within a few days, they said, ‘The studio has signed off on you, but you still have to go down to New Zealand as Niki Caro, the director, wants to meet you in person and basically do another audition.’ And I said, ‘Okay.’ Then, they said, ‘But the stipulation is, if you get the part, you’re going to stay down there and start pre-production.’ I was like, ‘That’s impossible.’ (Laughs.) They give you a few days notice, and then they want you to just pack up and go spend six months in New Zealand, which some people would jump at, but I’ve got a family and stuff. Anyway, that’s how it all kind of turned about, and fortunately for me, I got accepted by Niki.”

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