Netizens have blasted the production primarily for casting Matt Damon, a caucasian actor, as the lead star of the $150 million epic film that was supposed to take place in ancient China.
The lack of diversity in Hollywood has become a hot topic in recent months following the recent #OscarsSoWhite controversy and a slew of new Hollywood films that were also being called out for whitewashing characters.
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Fresh off the Boat star Constance Wu even posted a long message on Twitter against the “racist myth that [only a] white man can save the world”.
Wu wrote: “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. We don’t need salvation. We like our color and our culture and our strengths and our own stories.”
For his part, Damon thinks that labeling the movie as “whitewashed” were “outrageous,” saying that his role as a foreign mercenary who traveled to China had always been intended as Caucasian.
In China, where it will be shown at an earlier date on Dec.16, the media doesn’t really mind that the main role did not go to a Chinese guy, Mashable reported.
State-owned media Xinhua, for one, praised the entire cast, pointing out the 103 collective Oscar awards and nominations the production team had won. A reporter from Sina even praised Damon’s ability to write Chinese calligraphy, a skill he demonstrated on Tuesday during the film’s red carpet event.
In contrast with other Asian netizens, Chinese social media users have expressed excitement over watching China as a focus in a huge Hollywood blockbuster production.
“Finally, China has a monster movie to call its own, haha, the Great Wall of China is awesome!” a Weibo user was quoted as saying.
“Zhang Yimou’s goal is to make an epic that appeals to an international audience,” a netizen pointed out.
“The movie looks good, that’s key,” another user said.
Western audiences will get to witness Matt Damon save ancient China beginning Feb. 2017. The huge cast also includes Willem Dafoe, Pedro Pascal, along with Chinese co-stars Andy Lau, Wang Junkai, and actress Jing Tian.