Legendary Pictures' Hong Kong-based division, Legendary East, will kick-off with a historical fantasy flick titled The Great Wall. Oscar-winning filmmaker Edward Zwick will oversee the project, which is also meant to open the gates for other Hollywood studios interested in making movies on location in China (along with Bill Paxton's Kung Fu movie, which Legendary East is co-funding).
Production on Great Wall was originally slated to get underway this fall, but has been pushed back to Spring 2013. However, the reason for said delay is to avoid any complications due to the fall/winter weather in China and New Zealand (where the film will be shot) - and not over budgetary concerns, similar to those which led Legendary to axe Paradise Lost earlier this year.
Deadline has the scoop on Great Wall, offering assurances that the project is not falling apart (despite the delay) and updates on the casting process for Chinese acting talent, including Golden Globe-nominee Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Memoirs of a Geisha). The film's cast already includes the respective stars of this month's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Benjamin Walker) and next year's Superman reboot, Man of Steel (Henry Cavill), who figure into the plot as follows:
Set in 15th century China, The Great Wall is about British warriors [including, Cavill and Walker's characters] who happen upon the hurried construction of the massive wall. As night falls, the warriors realize that the haste in building the wall isn’t just to keep out the Mongols — there is something inhuman and more dangerous.
Both Walker and Cavill should be much-bigger names by the time Great Wall makes its way into theaters. Of course, depending on how well they do with their performances in the aforementioned (potential) break-out vehicles, anticipation for Zwick's latest big-budget historical epic could be heightened or weakened accordingly. Hence, hiring on Ziyi would be a wise decision, given the Asian actress already has established appeal for U.S. moviegoers.
Great Wall is based on a story co-conceived by World War Z author Max Brooks and blockbuster producer Thomas Tull (300, The Dark Knight, Clash of the Titans). Zwick adapted their treatment in collaboration with his frequent writing/producing partner, Marshall Herskovitz. Additional noteworthy names that are also onboard for Great Wall include Dark City production illustrator Christian Scheurer, as the film's "conceptual creature designer."
Zwick has a reputation for making "Oscar bait" films, especially period pieces that feature a diverse cast - in order to properly realize a culturally and historically significant "true" story on the big screen - but often end up feeling like decidedly "Hollywood" takes on otherwise rich subject matter (The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance). The fantasy revisionist angle to Great Wall could help to temper such common criticisms of Zwick's work.
We'll keep you updated on The Great Wall as more details are announced.