Matt Damon defended his starring role in the upcoming Zhang Yimou Chinese film The Great Wall, against many accusations that his being cast in the role is an example of Hollywood whitewashing – when films cast white actors to play ethnic parts, or over other ethnic actors.


Whitewashing has been an issue in Hollywood since it’s creation, but Damon feels this is not the case for his latest film. “Zhang Yimou called me and asked me to be in his movie,” Damon said. “When I think of ‘whitewashing’ I think Chuck Connors playing Geronimo, that’s whitewashing and that’s unacceptable.” The actor was referring to the 1962 Western in which a white actor played the Native American chief.

Damon said he would be “mortified” if he felt the charges of whitewashing were true. The Great Wall is a fantasy set in China about the origins of the Great Wall and its purpose. It will open in China this month and in the U.S. in February.

“Once you’ve seen the film you’ll see it’s not like that,” chimed in the director, who thought the claims were unfair to Damon. “It’s a group of people, a group of heroes, and as it’s set to the backdrop of a Chinese story so there are lots of Chinese heroes.”

Because of strict censorship laws in China, many Hollywood films are not allowed to be released there. So in counter, American studios are co-producing blockbuster films with Chinese investors.

According to Damon’s co-star Andy Lau, he hopes the film will bring some Chinese culture to the West. “It might not be that successful in foreign markets, and I don’t know whether people in our Chinese market will appreciate this style, but I think this is a new direction.”

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