Spread­ing cul­ture

TheGreatWall, a $150 mil­lion Sino-US co­pro­duc­tion fea­tur­ing Matt Da­mon and Andy Lau, could arouse the cu­rios­ity of global movie fans about China’s his­tory. Xu Fan re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at xu­fan@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Top movie di­rec­tor Zhang Yi­mou says he agreed to over­see the mak­ing of The Great Wall be­cause it was a chance to use Hol­ly­wood sto­ry­telling skills to spread Chi­nese his­tory and cul­ture. >

As a lack­lus­ter year for the movie in­dus­try is about to end, the spot­light is now on an up­com­ing fantasy epic, The

Great Wall. The $150 mil­lion Sino-US co­pro­duc­tion, be­lieved to be the big­gest bud­get film shot en­tirely in China, is also be­ing seen as a new way to tell a Chi­nese story to the world.

Zhang Yi­mou, one of China’s top di­rec­tors, says the chance to use Hol­ly­wood sto­ry­telling skills to pop­u­lar­ize Chi­nese his­tory and cul­ture is why he agreed to di­rect this film, also the biggest­bud­get movie he has done.

Speak­ing at a re­cent event to pro­mote the film, Zhang says: “Ev­ery year, more than 2 mil­lion for­eign tourists visit the Great Wall, but the film will give at least 100 mil­lion across t he world a chance to see this grand, mag­nif­i­cent struc­ture. I be­lieve the Great Wall will be the main at­trac­tion for movie­go­ers around the world.”

The film, which fea­tures a celebrity-stud­ded cast rang­ing from Os­car-win­ner Matt Da­mon to Hong Kong singer-actor Andy Lau, will hit Chi­nese the­aters on Fri­day and open in the United States in Fe­bru­ary next year.

For over 2,000 years, the Great Wall has stood as a barrier shield­ing the coun­try from in­vaders, but in the movie penned by three Amer­i­can writ­ers, the wall is a weapon-filled base for an elite force fight­ing an army of mon­sters, Tao Tie (greedy for food), which hunt hu­mankind ev­ery 60 years.

Zhang says the mon­sters based on The Classic of Moun­tains and Seas have char­ac­ter­is­tics found in Chi­nese mythol­ogy.

“They were de­signed to be large preda­tors, not alien crea­tures. Just like they were de­picted in the an­cient vol­umes, the Tao Tie (in the film) have eyes in their armpits,” he says.

An­cient China’s cut­ting-edge in­ven­tions as well as the coun­try’s tra­di­tional mu­si­cal in­stru­ments and cos­tumes can be seen in the film.

He also says around 20 per- cent of the di­a­logue will be in Man­darin in both the do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional ver­sions; both are pre­dom­i­nantly in English.

Movie­go­ers will also see two other Amer­i­can ac­tors, Pe­dro Pas­cal ( Game of Thrones) and Willem Dafoe (Spi­der-Man films) in the cast, which also in­cludes ac­tress Jing Tian, vet­eran actor Zhang Hanyu, and heart­throbs Lu Han and Wang Junkai.

The movie has two of the world’s top vis­ual-ef­fects com­pa­nies, In­dus­trial Light and Magic founded by Ge­orge Lu­cas and Weta Digital backed by Peter Jack­son.

To un­der­stand what went into the mak­ing of the vis­ual spec­ta­cles, these fig­ures may pro­vide a con­text.

The in­ter­na­tional crew, com­pris­ing more than 1,000 peo­ple from 37 coun­tries, pro­duced more than 5,000 “weapons” and 20,000 props.

Also, up to 300,000 Tao Tie mon­sters, cre­ated us­ing digital tech­nol­ogy, laid siege to the Great Wall.

Mean­while, in an in­ter­est­ing twist, many do­mes­tic movie­go­ers are skep­ti­cal about the mov- ie’s plot de­spite the film­maker’s ef­forts to pro­mote a new Chi­naHol­ly­wood model with his story.

A widely echoed view on movie fo­rums is the story is too West­ern, es­pe­cially since it re­volves around two West­ern mer­ce­nar­ies, one played by Da­mon and the other by Pas­cal.

But Zhang de­fends the plot, say­ing it gives the rest of the world a chance to im­merse it­self into a story about an­cient China.

He be­lieves a mon­ster-themed movie will at­tract young­sters over­seas, and then arouse their cu­rios­ity in learn­ing about Chi­nese cul­ture and some of the coun­try’s great­est in­ven­tions.

“This is the first time China is work­ing with Hol­ly­wood to make such a big movie. I hope it suc­ceeds so Chi­nese sto­ries can go fur­ther into the world,” he says.

Vet­eran actor Zhang Hanyu is among the star-stud­ded cast of Zhang Yi­mou’s lat­est film TheGreatWall.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The fantasy epic, TheGreatWall, with Os­car-win­ner Matt Da­mon (left) and other stars, will hit Chi­nese the­aters on Fri­day.

Di­rec­tor Zhang Yi­mou (cen­ter) teams up with the movie’s cast in­clud­ing (from left) Da­mon, Hong Kong singer-actor Andy Lau, ac­tress Jing Tian and Wang Junkai at a Beijing event.

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