Zhang Yimou's 'Great Wall' Casts Willem Dafoe; Potential Story Details Emerge

Willem Dafoe joins The Great Wall cast

Matt Damon and Bourne Supremacy/Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass will soon begin production on a new Jason Bourne movie for a 2016 release. Meanwhile, Damon's other major release scheduled for next year - Legendary Pictures' The Great Wall - reunites the actor with screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who penned the most recent script draft for the project and co-wrote all four previous Bourne installments.

The Great Wall was co-conceived by Legendary CEO Thomas Tull and World War Z book author Max Brooks, with the official logline starting the movie follows "an elite force making a last stand for humanity on the world's most iconic structure." However, reports that Oscar-nominee Willem Dafoe has joined the cast (which is also said to include Game of Thrones' Pedro Pascal) bring with them more potential insight on the movie's narrative.

THR is reporting that Dafoe - most recently seen in the acclaimed B-movie thriller John Wick - has signed on for Great Wall, though his character in the film is being kept under wraps. However, the site has also inclined the following summary for the project:

[Damon is playing] a soldier who is part of a group of mercenaries traveling to China in order to bring back gunpowder to Europe. When the group is attacked by mystical beasts, the man finds himself in a war between a secret warrior clan and the beasts.

This description aligns with reports from back when Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) was directing The Great Wall, claiming the film would revolve around two British Soldiers (then, Henry Cavill and Benjamin Walker) who travel to China and wind up discovering that the Great Wall was built to ward off supernatural monsters. By the sound of it, Damon and Pascal will be playing some versions of those same characters, with Dafoe possibly playing one of their fellow mercenaries.

Matt Damon in The Martian (Most Anticipated Movie of 2015)
Matt Damon (here in 'Elysium') is headed to 'The Great Wall'

Great Wall was previously reported to take place in the 15th century, which may well still be accurate - seeing as the current director, Zhang Yimou, is know for specializing in historical pieces (Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, The Flowers of War, etc.). Yimou the filmmaker has, for decades now, crafted period dramas and/or martial arts epics featuring beautiful visuals and poetic imagery, so hopefully him getting the chance to paint on a larger canvas with Great Wall - his English-language feature debut - will only result in a larger, but equally gorgeous picture.

Similarly, although the cast seems to be mostly composed of Westerners (mind you, talented ones thus far), Yimou's involvement should allow Great Wall to attract interest from top-acting Chinese acting talent too. The movie is going to be filmed entirely on location in China and is said to be the largest-scale tentpole to ever do so; so, if nothing else, Great Wall ought to perform well at the country's box office, no matter of its performance in other major markets (like the U.S.).

Gong Li and Zhang Yimou filming Curse of the Golden Flower
Gong Li and Zhang Yimou filming 'Curse of the Golden Flower'

Great Wall boasts an intriguing setup that, in the hands of a Chinese auteur, might offer a refreshing twist on your average big-budget adventure film made nowadays. Similarly, it's another interesting genre offering from Damon, in addition to his return as Jason Bourne and leading role in Ridley Scott's space exploration feature The Martian (the latter releases in Fall 2015).

Legendary Pictures will continue to churn out franchise titles over the next few years (Jurassic World, Kong: Skull Island, Pacific Rim 2), but it's nice to see the studio take on another tentpole with an original premise in Great Wall. Fingers crossed this project turns out well for Legendary, commercially and creatively-speaking, what with the studio is coming off a very poor critical/financial turnout for Michael Mann's hacker thriller Blackhat (also an international production based on an original setup).

The Great Wall opens in U.S. theaters on November 23rd, 2016.

Source: THR

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