Media & Culture

Matt Damon and Zhang Yimou

The two showed how hard it is to meld China and Hollywood.

Actor and Director, The Great Wall

Even before its Chinese release in late 2016, the wanna-be international blockbuster The Great Wall had caused a stir. The film features Damon, a soldier stationed on China’s Great Wall, battling mythical beasts alongside a cast of Chinese stars. It’s a major marker in the courtship between Hollywood and China, bringing together a famous Chinese director, a Hollywood studio owned by a mainland Chinese company, and an American superstar in a way that the Chinese are likely to see as bringing prestige to their domestic film industry.

But “Chollywood’s” search for the holy grail of a single, genre-busting flick that rakes in cash from Tianjin to Tuscaloosa will have to continue. After the trailer’s release in July, some Asian-Americans accused the filmmakers of “whitewashing,” or replacing Asian characters with white actors, a practice that has long plagued Hollywood and restricts opportunities for actors of color — a charge Zhang denied. Chinese moviegoers turned out for the film’s December 2016 opening, but it marked only the fourth-biggest weekend of the year; the film flopped at U.S. box offices, and host Jimmy Kimmel skewered the effort while hosting the 2017 Oscars.

(Photo credit: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

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