The Great Wall Director Has Spoken Out About Matt Damon's Controversial Casting

Matt Damon's new movie is going through the wringer right now, and if you caught the trailer, you probably already know why. According to Universal Pictures, The Great Wall "tells the story of an elite force making a valiant stand for humanity on the world's most iconic structure." Since that explains absolutely nothing, you're better off just watching the trailer for yourself; here it is:

click to play video

It's a doozy. While there are historical elements (it's set 1,000 years ago), it's a full-on monster movie, starring a main cast of Chinese actors . . . plus Matt Damon, Chilean-born Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), and Willem Dafoe. It's Damon's casting that has sparked the most controversy; not only is he playing the hero, but he also has a very strange (possibly racist?) speech dialect in his voice-over in the trailer. On July 29, the day after the trailer dropped, Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu sent a lengthy tweet calling the filmmakers to task.

Can we all at least agree that hero-bias & "but it's really hard to finance" are no longer excuses for racism? TRY

— Constance Wu (@ConstanceWu) July 29, 2016

Dang. On Aug. 4, The Great Wall's director, Zhang Yimou (known for House of Flying Daggers), addressed the controversy in a statement released to Entertainment Weekly:

"In many ways The Great Wall is the opposite of what is being suggested. 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. 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. There are five major heroes in our story and he is one of them — the other four are all Chinese. The collective struggle and sacrifice of these heroes are the emotional heart of our film. As the director of over 20 Chinese language films and the Beijing Olympics, I have not and will not cast a film in a way that was untrue to my artistic vision. I hope when everyone sees the film and is armed with the facts they will agree."

And that should bring you up to speed. Stay tuned for more developments!