Chinese Filmmaker Looks Abroad ; 'Coming Home' Director, Zhang Yimou, Plans to Make Movie in English

By Amy Qin; Becky Davis | International New York Times, November 22, 2014 | Go to article overview

Chinese Filmmaker Looks Abroad ; 'Coming Home' Director, Zhang Yimou, Plans to Make Movie in English


Amy Qin; Becky Davis, International New York Times


Despite setbacks from the authorities, the Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou appears to be moving forward with his work unfazed.

Under a sky ablaze with fireworks, more than 600 drummers decked out in brilliant red filled the square between the Water Cube and Bird's Nest stadiums in Beijing last week to welcome leaders to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit meeting. The spectacle recalled the dazzling opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and no wonder -- both were choreographed by the renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou.

The extravaganza came near the end of what has been a year of ups but also downs for Mr. Zhang, who first rose to global fame in the early 1990s with art house favorites such as "Raise the Red Lantern" and "Red Sorghum." Earlier this year, he was dealt a hefty fine by the authorities for violating family planning policies. Then, last month, his most recent film, the critically acclaimed Cultural Revolution-era drama "Coming Home," was passed over by Chinese officials for submission to the Oscars in favor of a relatively obscure French-Chinese co-production.

Despite the apparent setbacks, Mr. Zhang appears to be moving forward with his work unfazed. Most recently, details were released about his first co-production, a highly anticipated action blockbuster called "The Great Wall" that has been several years in the making.

At the U.S.-China Film Summit in Los Angeles this month, it was confirmed that the new movie will have a budget of $135 million and feature English as its primary language -- another first for Mr. Zhang, who doesn't speak the language.

The film will be produced by Le Vision Pictures, where Mr. Zhang is artistic director, and Legendary East, a Hong Kong-based production outfit set up by the American company Legendary Pictures. Production is scheduled to begin in February and the movie is expected to be released in theaters in 2016.

Set in the 15th century, the film is said to explore the mysteries of the Great Wall with science fiction elements. Edward Zwick, who directed "The Last Samurai," was reportedly set to direct the film in 2012, but later dropped out, because of scheduling and creative issues. It was announced in March that Mr. Zhang would take over the project instead.

Speaking at the Beijing Film Academy in June, Mr. Zhang, who could not be reached for comment for this article, said that he had been approached several times about the project over the years, but had been reluctant to commit himself out of concerns about the film's budget and storyline, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

"Now the production is big enough and really appealing," he said. And, importantly for him, he said, "the Chinese elements are leading elements in the film."

"It's good for the promotion of Chinese culture," he added. …

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