When one of China’s greatest living directors asks you to star in a movie about mythical monsters attacking the Great Wall, you say yes. When that director also happens to be responsible for action epics like Hero and House of Flying Daggers, then you say hell yes. That was definitely part of actor Matt Damon’s thought process when he was approached about starring in director Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall. The film tells the story of a group of foreign mercenaries (including Game of Thrones‘ Pedro Pascal and EuroTrip‘s Matt Damon) who find themselves captured by a top secret military sect tasked with defending the Great Wall from a horde of creatures known as the Taotie. Based on what we’ve seen of them in the trailers so far, they are most definitely not creatures to be trifled with.
But the bigger challenge lay behind the scenes, it seems. This film is director Zhang’s first purely English-language project and is the most expensive film in Chinese history. Shot in China, the sprawling production had a fleet of 100 translators on set to help ensure that everything ran smoothly. Our own Clarke Wolfe sat down with director Zhang Yimou and the film’s stars to talk to them about bringing the action-packed film to life, what attracted them to the project, whether the Mountain or the Taotie were scarier foes, and if Matt Damon is really as nice as he looks.The Great Wall opens on Friday, February 17.
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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@Osteoferocious).