Movies

Matt Damon is China's next big action hero

Set in an alternate vision of ancient China, The Great Wall film imagines that the Wall was built to defend the country against mythical creatures called Tao Tei, gargoyle-like figures that rise every 60 years to attack in vast, swarming armies and feed on humankind.

The epic film is helmed by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, and stars Matt Damon, Andy Lau, Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal and Jing Tian.

Here, Damon, 46, talks about working with Zhang, and how it feels to be China's next big action hero.

How does it feel to be China's next big action hero?

Damon: I hope it all works out that way. It was certainly great to go there and shoot a movie for six months.

It was a great experience and also (by how the) movie business is going, China is such an important market now, that I think we are going to be making a lot of movies there. There will be more of this type of co-productions, and more of these stories that appeal to everyone around the world.

You take on a diverse range of roles, from The Martian to being Bourne again. What drew you to this film?

What drew me was really Zhang Yimou. I have been chasing him for a long time, hoping for a role in one of his movies. I think he is such a brilliant director.

Suddenly I got a call on this project, and I met him. I looked at his drawing and everything he wanted to do with it. The scale of it was so huge that I did not want to pass up the chance to see him paint on that bigger canvas.

How is it like working with such a legendary director?

I have worked with a lot of legendary directors in my life, and I really like it that way.

I found them all to be incredibly humble people, and I really think that the thing great directors have in common is that they are open to the ideas of people around them, and they really collaborate.

Just being able to work with Zhang was a real privilege, which was why everybody showed up.

It was so fun to work with Zhang as he listened to the suggestions that I made. It isn't to say he will take them, but he will always listen and really consider them. It was fun, and it felt like a healthy collaboration.

What was one thing that stood out from working with the international cast and crew?

It was great getting to know them, getting familiar with their works and acting opposite them. They were just fantastic.

There are obviously the ones, such as Andy Lau, whom everyone knows about all over the world. I actually played Andy's character in The Departed (2006), a remake of Andy's Infernal Affairs (2002). We had fun talking about that.

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