“Wolf Warrior 2” might not mean much to average American audiences, but the biggest Chinese movie of all-time – and No. 5 on this year’s global box office so far – ended up making more than $870 million worldwide, which is more than superhero smash hits “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Wonder Woman.”
And that runaway success came as a surprise to the movie’s writer, director, financier and star, Wu Jing.
“I didn’t expect that my film could be this big and this huge and this successful,” Wu told TheWrap’s Matt Donnelly through a translator at a screening of the film in Los Angeles on Thursday.
But the big bucks didn’t come without some major risks, as Wu put himself in legitimate danger starring in the movie’s high-octane action sequences. A scene at the start of the film where he engages in hand-to-hand combat with pirates while submerged in the ocean was particularly perilous.
“I almost died twice during the making of this film,” he said. “One of the moments when I was shooting the underwater [fighting] montage. I almost died in the water. That’s quite an experience for me.”
Wu stars as former Chinese special forces soldier Leng Feng, who is working as a mercenary in an unnamed African country, when he takes on a mission to evacuate Chinese nationals trapped in a factory surrounded by rebels. While “Wolf Warrior 2’s” perspective is unmistakably Chinese, the movie’s action scenes and cinematography were inspired by Hollywood action blockbusters.
“You see a lot of influences on this film from Hollywood,” Wu said. “Film-making technology and style. Just like the young filmmakers of my generation in China, we learned a lot from Hollywood.”
“I watch American films most,” he added. “I learn from them the most. That’s why you can see a lot of U.S. and Hollywood influences on my film.”
China has been an increasingly important market for Hollywood films, as the country’s hundreds of millions of moviegoers can make the difference in a major tentpole’s success. Franchise hits like “Furious 7” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction” both cleared $300 million in China alone, but China hasn’t really been able to create a crossover hit that’s originated there.
Wu also enlisted pros from the U.S. and New Zealand to bring global best practices to the film. That paid off big-time, and Wu said he plans to continue working even more closely with Hollywood as he strives to make even bigger movies. And studios have been calling.
“It’s like starting a relationship. It could be bumpy, it could be tears and laughter. I’m getting married to Hollywood and the creative resources around the world. That’s what I have to do.”