As we get ever closer to the theatrical release of “Mulan,” we chat with American actor Jason Scott Lee to gain some new insight into Disney’s highly-anticipated action-drama flick.
Back in 1993, the world saw the release of what is arguably the definite retelling of the life of martial arts and cinema legend Bruce Lee. And portraying that legend is Jason Scott Lee (not related, mind you). Fast forward to 2020, and we’re once again set to see the American actor and martial artist appear in a retelling of a classic story. This time it’s Disney’s live-action adaptation of its 1998 animated hit “Mulan.” Here, Lee shares some insight on his involvement in the movie and his journey so far.
DAMAN: Your current project that everybody’s hyped up about is the live-action adaptation of “Mulan.” Can we start with how you got the role?
Jason Scott Lee: I was first asked to do a Skype audition which did not go well. I was told afterward that I was not the guy for the role. Then. about a year later, they approached me again to submit a self-taped audition, this time with a revised script. After this submission, within a week I was asked to meet with Niki Caro—the director—in New Zealand and did another audition down there with cameras. The next day I was told I got the part.
DAMAN: How was the experience on the set working with Niki Caro?
JSL: I felt I was in good hands as the two-month preparation gave a good indication of what to expect. Niki understands how to get an honest performance out of her actors and that made the experience fulfilling.
DAMAN: What was it like working with the cast?
JSL: The cast are some of the most enjoyable people to be around and spend time with. I’m pretty sure we all share a special place in our hearts for each other having gone through this experience together.
DAMAN: You’re playing a character named Bori Khan. Is he in any way related to Genghis Khan? Can you tell us a bit about him?
JSL: Bori Khan is actually a historical figure who comes from the Mongol tribes called the Rourans. I imagine he might have some distant relation to the great Genghis Khan. Bori Khan is the son of a great Rouran leader who is seeking to restore and revive his peoples’ culture which has been taken apart by the Chinese Empire. He is also out to avenge the death of his father who was killed by China’s Emperor.
DAMAN: During the filming of “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story,” which we’ll touch on that later, you practiced Jeet Kune Do—Bruce Lee’s martial art style. Was there any martial art style or training you had to go through to prepare for your role in “Mulan”?
JSL: The training for “Mulan” was mostly characterized by the use of a broadsword. Learning a classical Wu Xia fighting style dictated most of the fighting choreography and movement.
DAMAN: If we can go way back, your first major role was portraying Bruce Lee in “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story. Can you recall the experience? Did you feel any extra pressure in portraying somebody like him?
JSL: Portraying Bruce Lee in “Dragon” was one of the most personally satisfying experiences of my career. Having the opportunity to learn Bruce’s Jeet Kune Do and to spend time learning the philosophy behind it was life-changing. The pressure was huge to get it right and not look like a joke as I greatly respected the man and wanted to do him justice.
DAMAN: You were also notable for previously starring in another live-action adaption of a Disney Classic, “The Jungle Book,” where you played as Mowgli. What’s your favorite Disney story?
JSL: Growing up I’d have to say “Dumbo” was my favorite. I think because of his ability to fly.
DAMAN: What’s your secret to staying in super good shape?
JSL: Diet and moderate exercise, but mostly diet. Eating clean food is the key.
DAMAN: You’ve been in the industry for more than 30 years. What are the changes you’ve noticed in it?
JSL: The industry has expanded tremendously both globally and technologically. There are so many more platforms and the speed at which things are moving is astonishing. Nowadays just about anyone can become an overnight sensation.
DAMAN: What advice would you give to an aspiring actor?
JSL: Strive to become a diversified talent. Understand the business and what you want out of it and become every part of that development.
PHOTOGRAPHY Kit Tran
STYLING Michelle Wu
HAIR STYLIST Darbie Wieczorek
GROOMING Elle Favorule
U.S.-BASED CREATIVE DIRECTOR Mitchell Nguyen McCormack
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