Shanghai Fortress had all the makings of a successful movie: a massive budget, famous leads in Luhan and Shu Qi as well as a relentless PR machine. Many thought that it would easily be the next big blockbuster this year. Unfortunately, reality has this way of messing with you when things don’t go as planned.
Within a week of its premiere, Shanghai Fortress was plagued with scathing reviews for its sloppy special effects and story filled with plot holes. The movie currently scores a dismal 3.2 score on Douban and both the director Teng Huatao and writer Jiang Nan have apolozied for the film.
Teng Huatao was recently asked in an interview about his casting choice for the movie. Regarding the choice of Luhan, Teng Huatao reveals that he initially thought Luhan was a good fit for the role of Jiang Yang and stressed that Luhan’s popularity was not the reason he was chosen. In fact, Teng Huatao believed that popularity was a double edged sword. Sure, Luhan could help bring publicity but it would not help in the box office.
Nonetheless, Teng Huatao admits that he overlooked the difference between types of actors and mis-casted Luhan. To put him in a sci-fi war movie that wasn’t his style and to make it work became Teng Huatao’s focus, so much that he spent less on the script, the story and the character relationships when those areas were supposed to be his strong suits. Teng Huatao added that despite what many believe, Luhan was only paid a meager sum for his part in Shanghai Fortress.
When asked if he would’ve changed the actors, Teng Huatao simply said that it wasn’t because Luhan wasn’t good, but because they have never filmed a movie of this kind before and weren’t clear on how the actors should appear. Whether an idol like Luhan would fit the part is a decision they did not make well.
Teng Huatao’s comments angered several netizens as it seemed like he was shifting the blame on Luhan. Even actor Jacky Heung had some harsh words saying that if Luhan wasn’t popular would the director have used him? Since the director decided to cast the actor, then he should take care of the actor. Jacky further said, “Are you sure you’re a director? What kind of director would put the blame onto the actor? Are you a man? This is something you can’t bear, don’t work in this field anymore! Go back to school and study. You don’t have the breeding of a director.”
Chen Lizhi of Maxtimes defended the director by saying that there’s a difference between admitting one’s own mistakes in putting an actor who didn’t fit the right environment and saying that there’s something wrong with the actor. While it is true that Shanghai Fortress failed, I believe there was no single person responsible and that the collective feedback will serve as a lesson for future science fiction movies.