Matt Damon is to star in a new film by Chinese director Zhang Yimou – this is going to be very big for the development of China’s movie industry.
This is not the first time that a Hollywood star has starred in a Chinese film – Edward Norton and Christian Bale starring in films in recent years – but there is some serious star power in Matt Damon’s involvement – part Bourne, part Martian, and global good guy.
In Zhang Yimou’s The Great Wall, Damon will play a wandering European mercenary in the pre-gunpowder Late Song era, with a cast including Hong Kong legend, Andy Lau and Hollywood veteran Willem Defoe. It is scheduled for release December this year, but we want to see it now!
In recent years, Chinese box office has exploded in popularity, as movie going has become a popular social activity with urbanites. As numbers fall in the United States, it is expected that China will become the world’s largest film market as early as next year.
While foreign films and co-productions have been successful in China, Chinese film houses have started to enjoy sustained success – two recent examples include the recent local films Lost in Hong Kong and Mermaid. However the industry has lacked huge global hits. Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon provided a rare example of a global China-related hit.
Why will Damon’s involvement be big for the local Chinese film industry?
- Matt Damon’s films enjoy a global following from fans who are genuinely interested in his performance and choices in roles. Damon has proven himself extremely diverse, crossing over from action to comedy to dramatic roles. He is also is a public figure, through his charity work on development issues, particularly devoted to scarcity of water resources in the world’s poorest countries.
- The director of the film Zhang Yimou is familiar with the global film industry, enjoying success as an underground director in his early career, and helping the local industry promote itself with his classic film Hero and his artistic direction of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. Combined with Damon, this creates a strong likelihood that The Great Wall will enjoy universal appeal.
- Damon’s involvement gives the film access to a wider set of promotion channels. As an Academy-award nominee, his role in The Great Wall will undoubtedly feature as part of potential and actual inclusion in the awards. Press related to the film’s release would also profit greatly from Damon’s penchant for being the topic of magazine features and cover images.
At Resonance China, the SMART team will be monitoring closely the progress of The Great Wall, particularly the film’s potential role in strengthening the local industry.
We have recently created a dedicated report on how movies franchises are using digital to attract local moviegoers. In the report, we focus on three recent films – Star Wars, Kung Fu Panda 3 and the local production, Lost in Hong Kong – which each used different, but highly effective digital approaches.
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