NEW YORK, Oct. 10 (UPI) — Matt Damon says he was surprised and upset by accusations of whitewashing aimed at his upcoming, China-set monster movie “The Great Wall.”
Damon was asked about the criticism of his casting in the film at a New York Comic press conference Saturday.
“It was a [expletive] bummer,” Damon explained to reporters. “I was surprised, I guess, because it was based on a teaser. It wasn’t even a full trailer, let alone the movie. So, to get those charges levied against you….”
He said he was particularly dismayed to see one of his favorite magazines, The Atlantic, had written an article about the controversy.
“I was like, ‘Really, guys?’ To me, whitewashing, I think of Chuck Connors when he played Geronimo. There are far more nuanced versions of it and I do try to be sensitive to that, but like, [Chilean-born cast member] Pedro [Pascal] called me and he goes: ‘Yeah, we are guilty of whitewashing…. We all know that only the Chinese defended the wall against the monsters when they attacked.'”
“I never said that!” joked Pascal, who was sitting beside Damon. “Don’t quote me!”
“It was nice to react a little sarcastically because we were wounded by it. We do take that seriously. That’s a serious thing,” Damon acknowledged.
“And we don’t want people to be kept from work that they wouldn’t have the opportunity, otherwise, to see that is very, very specifically Chinese,” Pascal added. “It is Zhang Yimou‘s lens. It is a creature feature. It is a big, fantastical, popcorn, entertainment movie, but it has a visual style that is very, very much his and his only. There are actors we haven’t met that are from China. There is a Chinese crew, stars that some of the Western world knows, but not a lot.”
Damon also explained the teaser was intended to convey a lot of information in a short amount of time, including that the film was directed by the “Steven Spielberg of China,” but would still be accessible to moviegoers unfamiliar with his work.
“Don’t worry, they speak English in this movie, right? So, you hear my voice speaking English,” Damon went on to say. “Don’t worry, Matt’s in the movie. You’ve seen this guy before. So, they’re trying to establish all these things. And, by the way, there are monsters. Right? And 30 seconds and you are done. So, there’s a lot of pipe they’re trying to lay in that 30 seconds….
“If people see this movie and feel like there is somehow whitewashing involved in a creature feature that we made up, I will listen to that with my whole heart and I will think about that and I will try to learn from that. I will be surprised if people see this movie and have that reaction. I will be genuinely shocked.”
The film is due in theaters in February.