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Zhang Yimou to Helm Legendary's 'Great Wall' Chinese Co-Production

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood June 12, 2014 at 1:45PM

Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou has another new project lined up: "Great Wall," a fantasy about the obscure reasons behind why China's most iconic piece of architecture was constructed.
Zhang Yimou

Chinese auteur Zhang Yimou has another new project lined up: "Great Wall," a fantasy about the obscure reasons behind why China's most iconic piece of architecture was constructed.

At a talk he gave this week with "Godzilla" director Gareth Edwards (who was promoting his film before it is released in Chinese cinemas tomorrow), Yimou told students at Beijing Film Academy that he has been thinking about the film for some time.  "I’m looking forward to it," he told the audience. "The company and I have been preparing for 'Great Wall' for a long time. It is an action blockbuster."

"Great Wall," which is set in 15th-century China, almost got the green light in 2012 with Edward Zwick ("Blood Diamond," "The Last Samurai") at the helm, but creative differences with Legendary Pictures scuttled the talks.  Legendary CEO Thomas Tull--who birthed the project with "World War Z" scribe Max Brooks--is said to be a particular champion of "Great Wall," and has been seeking a Chinese co-production for some time.

Zhang's most recent film is "Coming Home," a drama that debuted out of competition in Cannes, about a Chinese man who flees an arranged marriage and escapes to America, only to return home to China and be sent to a labor camp.  Sony Pictures Classics will release the film stateside. The director is also attached to the Imagine Entertainment production of "The Parsifal Mosaic," based on Robert Ludlum's bestseller.

"The reason I took the 'Great Wall' project is that there have been requests in the last 10 or 20 years," Zhang told the Beijing Film Academy audience. "Now the production is big enough and really appealing. And, very importantly, it has Chinese elements in it.  The Chinese elements are leading elements in the film. This is the first time I’ve done this kind of co-production. It’s good for the promotion of Chinese culture. It has historical value for both parties."

This article is related to: Zhang Yimou, Gareth Edwards, Legendary, Foreign, In The Works, IN THE WORKS

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.