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Matt Damon Said He'll Be "Genuinely Shocked" If Audiences See "The Great Wall" As Whitewashing

"If people see this movie and feel like there's somehow whitewashing involved in a creature feature that we made up, I will listen to that with my whole heart," he said at New York Comic Con.

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This past summer, the trailer for The Great Wall was released, and almost instantly, it was met with backlash in the U.S. as another example of whitewashing.

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The film is a historical fantasy set in China and directed by Zhang Yimou. Damon's character visits the country in search of a powerful weapon and somehow ends up fighting to keep monsters on the other side of The Great Wall at bay.

On Saturday, during a press conference at New York Comic-Con, Damon said the initial reaction to the film "was a fucking bummer."

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"I mean to me, whitewashing... I think of Chuck Connors when he played Geronimo, ya know?" he said.

Damon said that his co-star Pedro Pascal, who was also at the press conference, called him amid the backlash and jokingly said, "Yeah, we are guilty of whitewashing — we all know that only the Chinese defended The Wall against the monster when they attacked."

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Damon added: "It was nice to react a little sarcastically ‘cause we were wounded by it [the criticism]. We do take that seriously.”

Pascal said, "We don’t want people to be kept from work that they wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise to see that is very, very specifically Chinese."

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

"It’s Zhang Yimou’s lens. It is a creature feature — it’s a big, fantastical popcorn entertainment movie."

Damon also said he was "surprised" by the response "because it was based on a teaser."

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He said that within the limited constraints of a teaser trailer — 30 seconds to one minute — there isn't enough time for people to really get the grasp of a full film. From a marketing perspective, Damon said the teaser appealed to American sensibilities, i.e. showing people speaking English, building suspense by showing monsters, and of course, including scenes of a massive movie star like Damon.

"I watched that teaser a number of times to try to understand the criticism, but ultimately where I came down [is] if people see this movie and feel like there's somehow whitewashing involved in a creature feature that we made up, I will listen to that with my whole heart and I will think about that and try to learn from that," Damon said.

"I will be surprised if you can see this movie and have that reaction. I will be genuinely shocked."

Chung Sung-jun / Getty Images

"Ultimately, I feel you are undermining your own credit when you attack something without seeing it."

A new trailer for The Great Wall debuted earlier today at NYCC, which you can view below. The film opens everywhere on Feb. 17, 2017.

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Michael Blackmon is an entertainment writer with BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Michael Blackmon at michael.blackmon@buzzfeed.com.

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