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BEIJING (AP) – Matt Damon said Tuesday that his role in the new China-Hollywood production “The Great Wall” was always intended to be European, responding to criticism that an Asian actor should have been picked for the part.
Some critics have said Damon’s casting amounted to “whitewashing,” in which Caucasians are chosen for roles that should have gone to actors from other ethnicities.
In an interview with The Associated Press, the American actor said he thinks of “whitewashing” as applying to Caucasian actors applying makeup to appear to be of another race, as was common in the early days of film and television, when racism was much more overt.
“That whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously,” Damon said, using the example of the Irish-American actor Chuck Connors, who played the lead character in the 1962 film “Geronimo,” about the famed Apache chief.
The 46-year-old Damon plays a British mercenary in the upcoming adventure fantasy helmed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou. The trailer sparked criticism in the US that a white man had been chosen to play the lead in a film set in China meant to showcase Chinese culture.
Constance Wu, who stars in the US comedy series “Fresh Off the Boat,” which is centered on Taiwanese immigrants, posted on Twitter, “We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that a only (sic) white man can save the world.”