Directed by Chinese helmer Zhang Yimou, the fantasy-action film stars Damon as a mercenary warrior who leads an army of elite warriors to confront a wave of marauding beasts who besiege the Great Wall of China.
After the teaser debuted over the summer, the project was slammed with whitewashing accusations because the movie starred a white American actor. “Fresh Off the Boat” actress Constance Wu even tweeted, “We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world.”
Now ahead of the feature’s debut overseas, Damon told The Associated Press that he takes the whole idea of whitewashing “very seriously,” explaining that he defines whitewashing as white actors putting on makeup to appear to be of another race. He also criticized the “outrages” stories that have come out regarding his role and blamed the controversy on click-bait stories.
“[It] suddenly becomes a story because people click on it, versus the traditional ways that a story would get vetted before it would get to that point,” Damon explained. “Eventually, you stop clicking on some of those more outrageous things because you just realize there is nothing to the story when you get to it.”
Zhang and Damon also commented on the fact that his character was “always intended to be European.”
“It’s a monster movie and it’s a historical fantasy and I didn’t take a role away from a Chinese actor … It wasn’t altered because of me in any way,” Damon said.
Earlier this year during New York Comic Con, Damon called the controversy “a f*cking bummer,” adding that he was surprised by people’s reaction.
“If people see this movie and there is somehow whitewashing involved in a creature feature that we made up, then I will listen to that with my whole heart,” he stated. “I will think about that and try to learn from that. I will be surprised if people see this movie and have that reaction. I will be genuinely shocked.”
“The Great Wall” arrives in theaters in February 2017.