In front of a 5,000-strong audience in Madison Square Garden as part of New York Comic Con, the cast of Legendary's The Great Wall talked about the "amazing" experience of working with director Zhang Yimou to create the likely international blockbuster that pits armies against a threat directly out of ancient Chinese mythology.
Matt Damon and Narcos star Pedro Pascal both explained that what had drawn them to the project was Zhang's presence as director. Describing himself as "a super fan and a super nerd" of the director, Pascal said that he could never have dreamed he'd have the chance to work with the man behind such movies as Hero and Raise the Red Lantern.
Damon, meanwhile, said that he'd been following Zhang's career for years and jumped at the chance to work on the project. "So many of his movies just blew me away visually," he said. "So few people work on that scale and nobody like him." The actor said that, prior to The Great Wall, "I've never done anything on this scale before. If I did it, it would have to be with Zhang Yimou."
In addition to praising the director, Jing Tian said that what drew her to the project was the chance to play "an incredibly powerful female character" that shows, she said, a lot of wisdom and courage. "One of the things I love most about this movie is the equality between men and woman in leadership roles. That equality is something I wish we could see more in film," said the actress. "It's very unique to have a female general. Audiences will see this character brings a lot of girl power. It's such a kick-ass role."
Damon agreed, telling the crowd, "The girls in this really are bad-ass," adding that the Crane Corps - a group of female-only soldiers who jump from the Wall to perform mid-air maneuvers - are particularly worth noting.
When Zhang came onstage to a standing ovation from both crowd and fellow panelists, he said, through a translator, that the experience of making the movie had been awesome. "This movie is made for the world audience. We have people working from all over the world, and we work really hard to present this movie to you guys," he said, promising that the most exciting element of the feature will be the monster only glimpsed in the trailer. "The most interesting thing of the movie [is that] everyone had interaction with the monster," he said. "Fighting the monster on the Great Wall will be spectacular, like nothing anyone has ever seen before."
After an unexpected Donald Trump reference - it is a movie about a giant wall, after all - Damon shared a birthday text from his father with the audience. "It said, 'My birthday present to you is letting you know that in exactly one month, we can kiss Trump goodbye. I doubt you'll ever get a better one,'" said the actor, adding, "Let's keep the wall in the movie."
The panel closed with the debut of the new trailer, showing Damon and Pascal going from prisoners of the Chinese authorities to fighting alongside them as the Great Wall is attacked by monsters barely seen. Amidst a series of visually spectacular shots, Damon gravely announces, "I fought for greed and gods. This is the first war worth fighting."
The Great Wall will open Feb. 17 in the U.S.