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Interview: Matt Damon Scales The Great Wall

February 15, 2017

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By: Lynn Barker

To play a mercenary fighter in The Great Wall, talented actor Matt Damon visited the Chinese wonder for the first time. He also got to work with one of his fave directors Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) who has a great ability to choreograph action on a ginormous scale.

William (Matt Damon) is overwhelmed by the army at the Great WallWilliam (Matt Damon) is overwhelmed by the army at the Great WallCourtesy of Universal Studios

Matt says he enjoyed working with a huge Chinese crew as well as an international bunch of actors. So many different nationalities were represented on the set that there were 100 translators hired to make sure they all understood each other. But, they all did speak the language of making films. Let Matt tell us who he plays, a bit about the story and his impressions at seeing The Great Wall of China for the first time.

Director Zhang Yimou and translator with Matt on setDirector Zhang Yimou and translator with Matt on setCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Talk about the interesting mythology created for the story. There are crazy creatures at the Great Wall!

  • Matt: Yeah. The idea in this movie is that The Great Wall was actually built to keep this wave of monsters out and they attack every sixty years. The only thing protecting northern China from these monsters is the Wall and the army that guards it so there is this fictitious army we’ve created called The Nameless Order. They are born into it and spend their whole life training for the fight. If these monsters break through, they are basically going to take over the world eventually.

Matt as mercenary William Garin with fellow soldiersMatt as mercenary William Garin with fellow soldiersCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What are these monsters like?

  • Matt: The monsters are called Taotie and they are based on Chinese folklore. They are the beast of greed and when they show it in folklore, it’s (often) just a head because, basically, it eats everything in its path including itself until only a head remains. So the humans fight the Taotie monsters.

Art depicting the ancient Taotie monsterArt depicting the ancient Taotie monster

Q: That is freaky! Who is your character?

  • Matt: He’s a mercenary from the West who has come to steal gunpowder. He’s heard about it and gets captured by The Nameless Order so I’m basically a barbarian who is exposed to this civilization that is way more advanced than anything I’ve ever seen. My character William is really moved by what he sees and the values expressed by this civilization.

Hordes of monsters scurry up The Great WallHordes of monsters scurry up The Great WallCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What is his background?

  • Matt: He was captured and given to an army at a very young age. He knows nothing but war and he’s fought for everybody. He’ll fight for anybody who pays him. He’s got a cynical view of the world and he’s an extremely capable fighter. He sees for the first time that there might be something more than his personal gain to fight for.

Matt as William in battle actionMatt as William in battle actionCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: What kind of weapons does William use?

  • Matt: He’s pretty much capable of fighting with any weapon but he has a bow that he uses and he’s a speed archer. He can fire multiple arrows very quickly basically from anywhere. So he’s most comfortable with his bow in his hand.

Matt Damon as William Garin with his trusty bowMatt Damon as William Garin with his trusty bowCourtesy of Universal Studios

Q: Okay William has only heard about the Chinese having gun powder so did he know about the great Chinese Wall?

  • Matt: Well he’s heard of the Wall but he’d never seen it and it’s beyond any kind feat of engineering that he could have ever imagined let alone the fact that atop the wall is this army called The Nameless Order that lives and dies to defend The Wall.

Matt as mercenary William Garin with fellow soldiersMatt as mercenary William Garin with fellow soldiersCourtesy of Universal Studios
 

Q: How did you personally feel when you saw The Great Wall of China?

  • Matt: There’s no way to describe The Great Wall and friends who had been there told me that. It’s a bucket list item. Everyone wants to get there but, walking up with my wife and kids, it’s almost unimaginable that human beings made that. It just goes on forever. It goes and goes and goes and was made by hand so many years ago. It’s spectacular. I can’t compare it to anything because there is nothing like it.

The Great Wall Movie PosterThe Great Wall Movie PosterCourtesy of Universal Studios

See The Great Wall in theaters Friday, February 17th!

 

Have Your Say

Do you like film stories about mythical creatures? Have you ever studied The Great Wall? Are you a Matt Damon fan? Lay down a comment below.