At a news conference in Beijing on Thursday, the actress Jing Tian, second from right, and the actor Pedro Pascal, right, take a selfie. From the left, the Hong Kong movie star Andy Lau, the American actor Matt Damon and the Chinese film director Zhang Yimou. Photo: AP
Matt Damon, one of China's favorite Hollywood stars, said Thursday he was overwhelmed at the fans turning up at his hotel in China — not for him but for an ex-boy band singer who also appears in a Sino-Hollywood fantasy adventure movie.
The singer is Lu Han, 25, but with the face of a teenager, who rose to fame as the lead vocalist and dancer of Chinese-South Korean boy band EXO.
Lu was trailed by fans, said Damon. "I think the first night where we started shooting there was something like 400 flower arrangements came to the hotel and took up the entire hallway."
Damon spoke in Beijing to publicize the movie "The Great Wall," which has a budget of $150 million. Damon, whose movies include "Good Will Hunting" and the "Bourne" action franchise, plays a battle-scarred mercenary in search of treasure. Pedro Pascal, of "Game of Thrones," is his sword-wielding partner. Lu plays a boy emperor.
In the film peppered with stars from both China and Hollywood, warriors use the Great Wall as a weapon to combat otherworldly creatures who threaten humanity. It is due for global release in November 2016.
It is the latest co-production between China and Hollywood as U.S. studios court China's rapidly growing movie audience and Chinese producers look to improve their technological know-how.
It will be the first English-language movie by Zhang Yimou, the director of the romantic Kung Fu drama "House of Flying Daggers," ''Hero" and the opulent opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Zhang said he felt at ease with the story because it was set in China.
"Movies that have fights against monsters from the past, present and future are all produced by Hollywood," he said. "What I have thought about is how to use this Hollywood format to express what I want to express and present the Chinese culture and make it unique."
Willem Dafoe also stars in the film, and there are a host of Chinese actors in supporting roles, including Hong Kong's Andy Lau. Actress Jing Tian takes on the lead female role in her first English-language film.
Damon said the language barrier was not a problem when filming. "It's the same discipline and it moves across cultures and languages pretty easily," he said.
The movie is the first being made by Legendary Entertainment's Chinese offshoot, Legendary East, together with Hollywood's Universal Pictures, China Film Co. Ltd., a unit of the state-owned China Film Group, and Le Vision Pictures, a private film company affiliated to Chinese tech firm LeTV.
"The Great Wall" is an official co-production. That means it will be treated as a domestic film and bypass China's import restrictions that limit foreign movies and will get a bigger share of the Chinese box office.
Hollywood has been inserting Chinese elements into some of its films to appeal to the Chinese audience, but official co-productions like "The Great Wall" require China or a Chinese story to be integral to the plot.
Most Chinese co-productions with the West have been box-office flops, but producers hope "The Great Wall" can show that big-budget Sino-Hollywood co-productions can work.