Famed Chinese director Zhang Yimou brought the star-studded cast of his first English-language film, The Great Wall, to New York Comic Con Saturday for an exclusive trailer reveal, panel, and press interviews. Cast members Matt Damon (The Bourne Legacy), Jing Tian (The Warring States), Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones) and pop star Junkai Wang were all eager to share details about their film, created with the help of over 100 translators on set.
The crowd went absolutely nuts as Damon made his NYCC debut. They then proceeded to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to the star, who turned 46 the day of the panel. Damon is a huge fan of Yimou, and was excited to discuss the project.
“I’ve been following Zhang Yimou for years, and he just blows me away visually with what he can do. There are only a handful of people that work on that scale and nobody does it like him,” he said. “I love the character, I love the idea. Ultimately, it’s a monster movie. Monsters are attacking the great wall. It’s historical fantasy, and I’ve never really done that before.”
Damon was keen on doing something on such a massive scale, and looked forward to working with the Chinese legend.
“I remember the very first meeting I had with him he revealed what (the monsters) were gonna look like and it felt very exciting to be incorporating Chinese mythology into a big Hollywood sword and sandal epic, but it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Jing Tian stars as Lin Mei, the general of the women’s section of the army, known as the Crane Corps.
“This character is an incredibly powerful female character. She’s very strong, brave, and determined. As a leader of the army, she shows a lot of wisdom and courage. One of the things I loved most about the story is the equality between men and women in leadership roles,” she said to lots of applause. “The respect that all of these warriors have for one another regardless of gender is something I wish we could see more of in film and in real life, for that matter. Historically, in society, military has been dominated by men, so it’s unique to have a female general. This character brings a lot of girl power to the movie.”
Damon agreed with her, and elaborated on the Crane Corps and their specific costumes
“The girls in this, they really are badass. Yimou decided early on to separate the corps by color. He spent a really long time figuring out exactly the right hue for each corp. The women wear blue, they’re the Crane Corps. They dive off of these parapets, and it’s pretty incredible.”
Like Damon, Pascal was a huge fan of Chinese cinema and Yimou’s work in particular.
“I continued to study him as a filmmaker throughout the 90s and then Hero came out and blew all our minds,” he said. “I wrote him an email just going crazy at the thought of being in a film with him. I wrote him an email, saying how much I loved his work, and I kissed his ass basically in an email and then I got to China and he had given me this beautiful hand-written letter in Chinese characters that I have framed in my bedroom.”
Yimou was also present and answered questions from the moderator with the help of a translator, who worked quickly to explain the director’s answers.
“From when I first started to now it took about three years. It’s a very long time. I regretted that I don’t speak English so I couldn’t say Happy Birthday to Matt Damon,” he said. “This movie is made for the world audience. We have people working from all over the world and we worked really hard to present this movie to you guys.”