Actress blasts notion that 'only [a] white man can save the world'

By Oliver Gettell
July 29, 2016 at 11:40 PM EDT
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic; Universal Pictures
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Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu has criticized the China-set action-fantasy The Great Wall for casting Matt Damon in the lead role, arguing that doing so reinforces an enduring Hollywood trope in which heroes are disproportionately portrayed by white men.

“We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that [only a] white man can save the world,” Wu wrote in a lengthy tweet Friday, a day after the film’s first trailer was unveiled.

A co-production of Legendary Entertainment, Le Vision Pictures, and China Film Group, The Great Wall is the most expensive U.S.-China movie collaboration ever. It is directed by Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, Hero) and features an international cast, including Willem Dafoe, Andy Lau, Pedro Pascal, and Jing Tian.

Damon plays a warrior battling monsters along the wall in the film, which is set 1,000 years in the past.

Wu, who is Taiwanese-American, lamented the underrepresentation of Asians and Asian-Americans in prominent screen roles. “Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon,” she wrote. “They look like Malala. [Gandhi]. Mandela. Your big sister when she stood up for you to those bullies that one time.”

She also took issue with the notion that actors of color can’t sell tickets, writing, “Money is the lamest excuse in the history of being human. … Why not TRY to be better? If white actors are forgiven for having a box office failure once in a while, why can’t a [person of color] sometimes have one? And how COOL would it be if you were the movie that took the ‘risk’ to make a POC as your hero, and you sold the s‑‑‑ out of it?! The whole community would be celebrating!”

Representatives for Legendary and Damon did not immediately respond to EW’s requests for comment about Wu’s remarks.

The actress is the latest voice to speak out about Hollywood’s sometimes problematic handling of Asian characters and culture. In recent months, the #StarringJohnCho social media campaign has made the case for more diverse leading men, and films including Ghost in the Shell, Doctor Strange, and The Martian have been criticized for erasing Asian characters.

Read Wu’s full message below.

  • Movie
  • PG-13
release date
  • 02/17/17
  • 103 minutes
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