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The Great Wall cast talk gender equality, Chinese folklore and Donald Trump at NYCC

Happy birthday, Matt Damon

No subject was off limits during the panel for Legendary’s new action film, The Great Wall, including the lack of gender equality in Hollywood and Donald Trump.

The film, which stars Matt Damon, Pedro Pascal, Willem Dafoe and Tian Ling, tells the story of an ancient Chinese folk tale surrounding the building of the Great Wall and a monster who crept up on the army in charge of its construction. Directed by Yimou Zhang (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) and written by Max Brooks (World War Z), The Great Wall is expected to be one of Legendary’s biggest films when it opens next year.

During the panel for the film, cast members Damon, Pascal and Ling sat down to talk about their experiences making the movie and what drew them to the story in the first place. For Ling, working with a director like Zhang was the cherry on the proverbial ice cream sundae, but the best part about the film was the unquestioned equality between men and women.

"One of the things that I love most about the story is the equality between men and women in leadership roles," Ling said. "The respect that all these warriors have for each other, regardless of gender, is something I wish we saw more of, both in film and in real life.

"Historically, the army has always been dominated by men. It's very unique to have a female general. Audiences will see there's a lot of girl power in the movie."

Damon echoed his co-star’s thoughts, and said that one of the benefits to working with Zhang was that he wanted to put women on the front lines and have them do the most awe-inspiring stunts in the film. Damon said that he’s used to working on projects where men dominate those specific types of roles and seeing women take the lead was a nice change in pace.

"Zhang separated the different armies by the color of their uniform," Damon said. "In the movie, the women wear a blue uniform and you see them diving off cliffs and doing these incredible stunts. It’s remarkable."

"Audiences will see there's a lot of girl power in the movie"

The Great Wall marks the first English-speaking film for Zhang, and because of that, the director said it’s taken more than three years to get the film to where it is right now. Zhang said they had more than 100 translators on set to work with the different cast and crew, spending time both in China and the United States to complete the project.

"I finally get to work with great actors like Matt and Pedro and Tian on a big Hollywood movie," Zhang said. "I get to bring some Chinese stories to America."

The legend surrounding the construction of the Great Wall is well known throughout China, but Zhang said that the film isn’t just being made for an East Asian audience. Zhang remarked that now, more than ever before, film has become a global business and he was excited to bring these stories to an American audience who might not know about them otherwise.

"This movie is made for the world audience," Zhang said. "The most interesting part is the monster. Everyone has an interaction with that monster. Seeing people fight the monster on the Great Wall, you've never seen that before."

Damon and Pascal jumped on Zhang’s comments about the wall, using the moment to joke about presidential candidate Donald Trump and his intention to build a wall on the United States border. Damon pulled out his phone and read a text from his dad that said, "Happy birthday, my boy! My gift to you is that in one month, we can kiss Donald Trump goodbye. I don’t know if you’ll receive a better gift than that today."

"Let’s leave the walls to the movies," Damon added.

The Great Wall hits theaters Feb. 17, 2017.

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