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‘The Great Wall’ Director: This Film Can ‘Bring People Together’ From Different Cultures

Variety logo Variety 2/16/2017 Dave McNary
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Matt Damon sounded very much like the family man at Wednesday night’s premiere of Legendary-Universal’s fantasy action-adventure “The Great Wall” at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

“It’s kind of surreal being here at the Chinese after all the work in China” Damon mused on the red carpet. “This took so much longer than most [movies] because of all the special effects and the scale of the movie. Everything about it was bigger and longer.”

Shooting of the $135 million movie — the most expensive ever of films made in China — began in March, 2015, in Qingdao. Damon noted that there were more than 100 on-set translators.

“We lived there for half a year, which is a significant move for my kids,” Damon added. “They still talk about it and they want to go back.”

Damon portrays a mercenary in medieval China who joins the fight against monsters attacking the Great Wall every 60 years. The film has already grossed more than $220 million in China and will open Friday in the U.S.

“I think this movie can be a bridge that can bring people together from different cultures,” said director Zhang Yimou, through an interpreter.

Willem Dafoe , who also plays a mercenary, confessed that he could not but help feel engulfed by nostalgia about returning to China, nearly two decades after filming “Pavilion of Women” there in 2000 for Universal Focus.

“I was the main western character in the movie and it got a very big release and did well in China,” he recalled. “So I had a leg up, although China has changed a lot in that time. Just the idea of working with Zhang — it’s the kind of thing I love to do.”

Damon introduced the movie, saying, “This was the thrill of a lifetime; we had the common language of making movies.”

The after-party took place at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel, featuring an elevated golden throne much like that of the Chinese emperor in the film.

“The Great Wall” bows Feb. 17.

(Pictured: Pedro Pascal, Zhang Yimou, Jing Tian and Matt Damon)

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