After a long and amorphous development process, our first look at The Great Wall has finally arrived. The film originated from an idea by Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull and World War Z author Max Brooks that tells the real story behind why the Great Wall was constructed: to keep something supernatural out. The Last Samurai filmmaker Edward Zwick was the first director on the project, and he swiftly cast Henry Cavill and Benjamin Walker as his two leads. However, due to financing and weather issues, Zwick subsequently left the project and Legendary started again from scratch.
That’s where Zhang Yimou came in, the filmmaker behind Hero and House of Flying Daggers and the director who crafted the stunning 2008 Beijing Olympic Ceremonies. And after casting Matt Damon in the lead role, the film subsequently grew into the most expensive film to ever be shot entirely in China with a budget of $135 million.
“The film takes place about 1,000 years ago. At its core, it is a period piece and an action film. The fantasy element does play a major role because of the monsters. But, what makes our film unique is that these are ancient Chinese monsters. Even though it’s a fantasy movie, we filmed it in a very realistic way. We want it to feel like the events actually happened. Other than the monster, all aspects of this film are backed by either scientific or historical research.”
There are no superpowers or supernatural weapons in the film, as Yimou stresses that it’s a monster movie in the truest sense—everything but the monster is played 100% real. Check out the first images below. The film opens in 3D on February 17, 2017 via Universal and also stars Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, Andy Lau, Luhan, and Jing Tian.