Directed by the celebrated Hong Kong director Daniel Lee, starring Jackie Chan, who is also the executive producer, Hollywood star John Cusack, Academy Award-winning actor Adrien Brody, the Korean pop idol Choi Si-won, and Chinese actors, including Lin Peng, Mika Wang and Chopsticks Brothers, the IMAX 3D blockbuster Dragon Blade is scheduled to open during the 2015 Chinese New Year. Today the production team release a featurette on the props, in which Jackie Chan, Daniel Lee and production designer Thomas Chong explain the concept of the luxurious production design and prop warehouse. When talking about the studio that has a floor area of 2,500 m2, even a veteran filmmaker like Jackie Chan exclaims that it is such a breathtaking sight. Moreover, the shield designed by Jackie Chan himself turns out to be what saves his life in the movie.
A prop studio that has a floor area of 2,500 m2
Director Daniel Lee worked as a prop designer for two months
The production budget of Dragon Blade exceeds US$65 million. In order to re-enact the spectacular battle scenes between the Chinese army in the Han Dynasty and the Roman troops, and the cultures in the Western Region countries, director Daniel Lee and the renowned production designer Thomas Chong (Green Snake, The Myth) built a super luxurious warehouse for making and storing the props. They made more than 100,000 items, and over 60,000 of them are hand-made. Even Jackie Chan, who had participated in several international blockbusters, marvels at the scale of the warehouse. He says, ‘You’ll definitively be stunned if you take a tour around it’
Director Daniel Lee has put in so much effort in the production design in Dragon Blade; from the set to the costume and each weapon, Lee pays attention to the smallest detail. He admits that the amount of props made for Dragon Blade is larger than any of his previous films. For two months, Lee transformed himself into a professional prop and set artist, working with the art department. Thomas Chong, the production designer, says that the background of the story allows him a lot of freedom to express his creativity. He has come up with such a large amount of props in the hope of re-enacting the historical scenes before the audiences’ eyes.
Modern elements incorporated into period setting
Jackie Chan himself designed the “Little shield”
In terms of designing the props, Daniel Lee respects the history and yet integrates some modern elements into it. Especially in the gold armour that Jackie Chan wears in the movie, Lee decides to etch the word, cirrus cloud in Chinese, on the chest piece, adding a tender and romantic touch to a very masculine item. Furthermore, for the scene in which they are re-building the Wild Geese Gate, Lee follows the old methods of constructing the city wall and re-creates a seven-meter high giant machine that is composed of twelve cogwheels. The machine is so heavy that it takes twenty men to push it; it exerts such strong visual impact on the viewers when it is set in motion.
During the production, Jackie Chan had an inspiration and came up with a new “Jackie Chan shield”. In contrast to the large heavy shields often seen in the war movies, the shields Jackie Chan designed are smaller so that they can be tied to the arms. When he is asked about the inspiration, Jackie Chan explains that the job of the protectorate troop he leads in the movie is to act as peacemakers in the conflicts between the tribes. They do not attack and need something for self-defence. In the end of the movie, this little shield even saves Jackie Chan. Daniel Lee praises Jackie Chan’s idea as he thinks it is a very clever and logic design. During the production process, they used fiberglass & lacquer and tried more than thirty prototypes while each had taken them six days to finish. Fortunately, they made a perfect shield for the movie in the end.
Dragon Blade will open on the 2015 Chinese New Year’s Day (19th February) across Asia.
Watch Daniel Lee, the director of Dragon Blade as he talks about the making of Dragon Blade set: