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Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Zhang Yimou: Director Defends 'Racist' Matt Damon Casting in 'The Great Wall'

Director Zhang Yimou, right, speaks next to actor Matt Damon during a news conference of their latest movie "The Great Wall" held at a hotel in Beijing

(Photo : Getty Images) Director Zhang Yimou, right, speaks next to actor Matt Damon during a news conference of their latest movie "The Great Wall" held at a hotel in Beijing

Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou has justified the casting of Matt Damon in his upcoming sci-fi monster flick "The Great Wall" after American-Taiwanese actress Constance Wu criticized the film for being "racist" and whitewashing heroism.

Damon plays the role of a European mercenary who joins forces with an army of elite Chinese warriors to fight against ancient monsters atop the Great Wall of China in the the big-budget English-language film.

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The "Fresh Off the Boat" actress expressed her anger and displeasure over Damon's casting on social media shortly after the trailer dropped last week, as previously reported.

"We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that a only white man can save the world," said at the time, adding that films like "The Great Wall" portray white people as a more superior race than the POC.

The film's director, Zhang, has now addressed the controversy in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. "For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tent pole scale for a world audience. I believe that is a trend that should be embraced by our industry,"

Zhang, whose credits include films like "House of Flying Daggers" and "The Flowers of War," added that the Chinese-American film's story does not revolve around the construction of the titular landmark and the "Jason Bourne" actor is not portraying a role that was originally intended for a Chinese actor.

He also pointed out that the arrival of Damon's character in the film was an essential plot point and that the film's other four "major heroes" were played by Chinese actors.

"Our film is not about the construction of the Great Wall. Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor. The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point," he was quoted as saying. Zhang said actors portraying the movie's other four "major heroes" are Chinese.

"The Great Wall" is slated to hit theatres in China this December before opening in other countries early next year.

Watch the trailer below:


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