Matt Damon is once again defending The Great Wall against accusations of whitewashing.
“The whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously,” Damon told The Associated Press , citing the 1962 film Geronimo and its casting of a white American actor in the role of the Native American chief as an example.
Directed by legendary Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, The Great Wall is set 1,000 years ago, and stars Damon as an English mercenary faced with a slew of fantastical monsters. Since the film’s trailer was released earlier this year, The Great Wall has been slammed by critics for featuring Damon as a lead character. “We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that [only a] white man can save the world,” Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu wrote in a widely circulated post denouncing the film.
Speaking to the AP, Damon said he believes the 30-second trailer blew up as it did and faced such a wide range of controversy thanks to the age of 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 said. “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.”
Following the initial release of the trailer and subsequent backlash, Yimou released a statement to EW, saying that the film is “deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, and is being made at tent pole scale for a world audience.” The director also noted that Damon’s role was not “originally conceived for a Chinese actor.”
“The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point. There are five major heroes in our story and he is one of them — the other four are Chinese,” Yimou added.
Damon has responded to criticism over the film before. At New York Comic-Con in October, he called the negative reaction a “f—ing bummer.”
Damon went on to explain that he understood the concerns, but hoped people would wait until viewing the movie in its entirety before jumping to conclusions.
“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 said. “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 think you are undermining your own credibility when you attack something without seeing it. You have to educate yourself about what it is before making your attack or your argument and then it’s easier to listen to from my side.”
The Great Wall is out on Feb. 17. 2017.