During this week’s episode of the SR Underground podcast, there’s a discussion about the financially-risky nature of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, given the massive cost and absence of bankable leads. Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. worked out a compromise with del Toro to have the film post-converted to 3D, as added insurance that the sci-fi film’s nine-digit budget will be covered.
Similar cost concerns prompted Legendary to postpone production on The Great Wall, the first project from a newly-opened Hong Kong wing called Legendary East. Oscar-winner Edward Zwick was originally gearing up to begin production this fall, but the start date was pushed back to next spring in order to take advantage of better weather conditions that should lower shooting costs.
Great Wall, like Pacific Rim, features actors on the verge of stardom – Henry Cavill (next summer’s Man of Steel) and Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) – and international star Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), but no one who can greenlight a big-budget production on their own. Moreover, Zwick is an acclaimed filmmaker for his work on war dramas like Glory and Defiance – as well as award-seasons releases Legends of the Fall and Blood Diamond – but The Last Samurai is the only full-blooded blockbuster he’s made to date.
Zwick, however, is reported to have left the project for reasons that have yet to be revealed officially. Deadline says that filming is still expected to get underway next year, suggesting Zwick’s departure as director may have been anticipated or, at the least, the 2013 start date is flexible enough to be be pushed back so another filmmaker can come aboard and find their feet before production begins.
Legendary decided to hire on lesser-knowns Gareth Edwards (Monsters) to direct Godzilla 3D and Noam Murro (Smart People) for 300: Rise of an Empire, but it is doubtful the company will do the same with a non-franchise installment such as Great Wall. Zwick’s name may not guarantee a large audience, but his credits would have made for a good selling point in the trailers. The concern at this point is that Legendary might deem Great Wall too risky without Zwick and can it, similar to what happened earlier this year with Alex Proyas’ Paradise Lost.
Great Wall revolves around a pair of British warriors (Cavill and Walker) who make their way to China during the 15th century. There, the duo discover that a massive wall is being constructed to keep out invasive Mongol forces, as well as dangerous supernatural creatures. Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz wrote the script, based on an idea from Legendary CEO Thomas Tull and Max Brooks (author of World War Z).
More on The Great Wall as the story develops.