Chinese film director Zhang Yimou recently made his English speaking film debut in the new historical monster flick, The Great Wall, which stars Matt Damon as a mercenary who becomes embroiled in the defense of China's historical Great Wall (one of the wonders of the world) against horrendous monsters. Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, and Tian Jing are in key supporting roles. Though the film is something of a box office risk, Universal is confident the project can find some traction with audiences, going so far as to release a prequel comic fleshing out the backstory. The Great Wall has already grossed $224.5 million worldwide, well before it opens in the United States on February 17.
Screen Rant caught up with Yimou at a red carpet event in Beverly Hills to discuss cultural challenges and what he hopes his audience takes away from the film.
What were some of the cultural challenges when creating The Great Wall?
Zhang Yimou: Because this is the first time we're doing a giant Hollywood blockbuster with the Chinese culture as the background, the most difficult thing is to find a commonality between two great cultures. Something that both people can understand and appreciate.
Did you work closely with Mayes C. Rubio to help with the costume design?
Zhang Yimou: We worked very closely together for over a year. The first time I met her it was on the set of Warcraft. I visited a set of Warcraft and I met her and I found that she’s a fabulous designer. She gets very detailed about everything and I love the costume from Warcraft and then after interviewing her I decided to hire her on this movie. She studied Chinese culture for a long time and what happened was she was able to melt the Chinese culture very closely with Western design.
If you had one thing you want your audience members to take away from this movie what would it be?
Zhang Yimou: Even though this is a monster flick I hope when the audience leaves the theater they like Matt Damon's character at the end of the movie. They leave with a great warm heart, they leave with friendship. In the end he let go of the black powder but he brought home his friends and he brought home hope and friendship.
- The Great Wall (2017) release date: Feb 17, 2017