Matt Damon on ‘Great Wall’ backlash: ‘It was a f—cking bummer’

Matt Damon has a response to the backlash that hit “The Great Wall” upon the release of its first trailer, which many accused of whitewashing: “It was a f—ing bummer.”

The China-U.S. co-production, by Le Vision Pictures and Legendary Pictures, is helmed by “House of Flying Daggers” director Zhang Yimou  stars Damon as a warrior during the construction of China’s Great Wall. It’s been described as a “3D science fantasy adventure-monster action” flick, and is filmed in the English language.

The second trailer, which debuted today, shows the actor alongside an international cast comprising Chinese stars Andy Lau, Jing Tian and Lu Han, as well as Pedro Pascal and Willem Dafoe.

Upon the first trailer release, the film was decried as the latest Hollywood example of the “white savior,” with actress Constance Wu taking to Twitter to rant, in part, that “we have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world.”

“It’s not based in actual fact,” Wu wrote. “Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon. We don’t need salvation. We like our color and our culture and our own strengths and our own stories.”

Damon, at a New York Comic-Con press conference Sunday, said he was disappointed at the reaction. “I had a few reactions,” he said, according to Screenrant. “I think I was surprised, I guess, because it was based on a teaser. It wasn’t even a full trailer, let alone the movie. So, to get those charges levied against you … what bums me out, actually, is that I read The Atlantic religiously. And there was an article in The Atlantic. I was like, really guys? To me whitewashing, I think of Chuck Connors when he played Geronimo … there are far more nuanced versions of it and I do try to be sensitive to that.”

Damon criticized the passing of judgment on a film based on a 30-second trailer: “They’re trying to lay a lot of pipe in that 30 seconds. And I guess in retrospect like I watch that teaser a number of times to try to understand the criticism, but ultimately where I came down to was, if people see this movie and feel like there’s somehow whitewashing involved in a creature feature – I will listen to that with my whole heart. And I will think about that and I will try to learn from that. But I will be surprised if people see this movie and have that reaction – I will genuinely be shocked.”

“I really do agree with and try to listen and try to sensitive to … but ultimately I feel like you are undermining your own credibility when you attack something without seeing it,” Damon said. “I think you have to educate yourself about what it is and then make your attack or your argument, and then it is easier to listen to from my side.”

Damon’s response to whitewashing criticism follows that of director Zhang’s, who told Entertainment Weekly in August that Damon is not playing a role 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,” Zhang said.

The film’s U.S. release is set for February 2017.