The English-language film, which was directed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou, is about the mysteries surrounding the country's famous Great Wall

By Lindsay Kimble
December 06, 2016 12:34 PM

Just ahead of The Great Wall‘s debut in China, Matt Damon is again defending the action-adventure film against claims of whitewashing.

“That whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously,” Damon told the Associated Press.

When The Great Wall‘s first teaser trailer debuted over the summer, many slammed Damon for his role as a soldier. The English-language film, which was directed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou, is set in the Northern Song Dynasty (959 – 1126) and chronicles the mysteries surrounding the country’s famous Great Wall.

In July, Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu slammed the film in a series of tweets, writing, “We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that a only white man can save the world. It’s not based in actual fact. Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon. They look like Malala. Ghandi. Mandela. Your big sister when she stood up for you to those bullies that one time.”

Damon, 46, told the AP, however, that his character — a British mercenary — “was always intended to be European” because of the demands of the story.

The actor expressed that he thought the controversy would subside in the months following the teaser trailer’s release, explaining, “Once people see that 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.”

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Earlier this year, Damon called the drama a “f—— bummer” during a press conference at New York Comic Con, according to Entertainment Weekly.

“I had a few reactions. I was surprised, I guess, because it was based on a teaser, it wasn’t even a full trailer, let alone a movie,” he said of the backlash, adding, “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. 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 hits theaters in February 2017.