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Zhang Yimou reveals secrets of 'The Great Wall'

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, October 11, 2016
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Zhang Yimou speaks on "The Great Wall" panel at New York Comic-Con in New York, Oct. 8, 2016. [Photo /]

Legendary director Zhang Yimou brought the new trailer of his upcoming blockbuster "The Great Wall" to a screaming crowd in Madison Square Garden, New York on Saturday, claiming it is a movie for a worldwide audience.

Zhang's first English-speaking film, starring Matt Damon, Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe, and Andy Lau, is the most expensive film production in Chinese history — with an estimated budget of around US$135 million. It tells the story of an ancient Chinese folk tale surrounding the building of the Great Wall. A horde of monsters creep up on the wall every 60 years forcing the army to defend it.

"I just want worldwide audiences to learn more about Chinese culture and invention while being entertained by the monster movie," the director explained.

The film took more than three years to complete and used over 1,000 crew members. Three walls were built during production as they could not shoot on the actual Great Wall.

Zhang, however, preferred not to focus only on technological innovation, such as ultra-high definition format, as fellow film gurus Ang Lee, James Cameron and Peter Jackson are doing. "I think what I sold to audiences is a really good story, the technology is always a tool but not the soul."

Damon, a fan of Zhang for many years describes him as an icon and legend like "Steven Spielberg of China." When Zhang called him for the cast offer, Damon was very excited. His first reaction after reviewing the imagery Zhang had planned for the film was to compare it to James Cameron's "Avatar."

However, "The Great Wall" has received some criticism from the Asian-American media that it has whitewashed history. Constance Wu, star of the ABC sitcom "Fresh Off the Boat," posted on Twitter that Hollywood needs to stop perpetuating the myth that "only a white man can save the world. It's not based on actual fact."

Zhang rebuked the criticism by saying, "Actually, it is a story about foreigners trying to steal gun powder from China to sell in Europe. The bravery, dedication and fighting spirit of Chinese soldiers changed the European mercenaries' world view, inspiring them to eventually join the fight against the monster. This is a story about a hero growing."

Chinese actress Jing Tian pointed out that her character was the badass leader of the Chinese army in the film. "One of the things that I love most about the story is the equality between men and women in leadership roles. The respect that all these warriors have for each other, regardless of gender, is something I wish we saw more of, both in films and in real life."

"The Great Wall" is co-produced by China Film Co. Ltd., LeVision Pictures, Legendary Pictures and Universal Pictures. It will hit Chinese movie screens on Dec. 16, 2016 and be released in the United States on Feb. 17, 2017.

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