Over the past few weeks, there’s been a growing concern over ‘whitewashing’ in Hollywood films, two recent examples include Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One in Doctor Strange - the character being Tibetan in the Marvel comic books - and Scarlett Johansson’s The Major in Ghost in the Shell.
Add Matt Damon to the list, as his upcoming role in The Great Wall has sparked outrage from numerous people around the world, including Fresh off the Boat actor Constance Wu, who addressed the controversy in an online statement.
Speaking at the New York Comic-Con, Damon addressed the ‘whitewashing’ claims, saying “It was a f**king bummer,” adding that the cast felt “wounded” by the backlash.
“To me, whitewashing, I think of Chuck Connors when he played Geronimo,” he said according to ScreenCrush. Speaking about the initial teaser, he added: “They’re trying to establish a number of things in 30 seconds or a minute or whatever they have; it’s not a full-length trailer, it’s a teaser.
Hollywood whitewashing controversies
Hollywood whitewashing controversies
1/11 Scarlett Johansson cast as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell
Blonde, white US actress Scarlett Johansson was announced to be playing the clearly Japanese character Motoko Kusanagi in Hollywood's Ghost in the Shell remake, much to the dismay of Asian film fans
2/11 Tilda Swinton cast as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange
Marvel sparked outrage when Anglo-Scottish actress Tilda Swinton was cast as Tibetan mystic The Ancient One alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange
Zoe Saldana was criticised for 'blacking up' to play the considerably darker-skinned soul singer Nina Simone in Nina
4/11 Jake Gyllenhaal stars in Prince of Persia
The half Jewish, quarter Swedish actor was cast to play a Middle Eastern Prince in Disney's 2010 film
5/11 Rooney Mara as Tiger Lily in forthcoming film Pan
Mara was been cast in the role of American Indian Tiger Lily, sparking an online protest from angry film fans
6/11 Christian Bale plays Moses in Ridley Scott's Exodus: Gods and Kings
Ridley Scott claimed he would never cast 'Mohammed so-and-so from such-and-such a country' in a lead role in his Biblical epic, and went on to cast an entirely white cast instead
7/11 Jim Caveziel plays Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ
Catholic star Mel Gibson chose to cast a Caucasian American actor in the role of Jesus for his controversial film
8/11 Micky Rooney plays a Japanese neighbour in Breakfast at Tiffany's
Who better to play Holly Golightly's Japanese neighbour IY Yunoishi than American actor Mick Rooney. At least Hollywood has come some way since 1961
9/11 Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez in Argo
Ben Affleck became the subject of a few editorials in Latin American newspapers for casting himself (an American with English, Irish, Scottish and Swiss ancestry) as a Mexican CIA operative
10/11 Jennifer Connelly plays Alicia Nash in A Beautiful Mind
Alicia Lopez-Harrison de Lardé was a naturalised US citizen from El Salvador, but was played by an actress of Jewish, Irish and Norwegian descent
11/11 Chinese actresses cast in Memoirs of a Geisha
What better way to alienate Japanese cinemagoers than to cast three Chinese actresses in the lead roles in a film about Japanese culture
“They’re trying to tease the monster. They’re trying to speak to a bigger audience. ‘You probably don’t know who this director is in Middle America, the Steven Spielberg of China. Don’t worry, they speak English in this movie’ – you hear my voice speaking English. ‘Don’t worry, Matt’s in the movie, you’ve seen this guy before.’ So they’re trying to establish all these things. And by the way, there are monsters. So there’s a lot of pipe they’re trying to lay in that 30 seconds.”
Damon revealed how co-star Pedro Pascal (Narcos, Game of Thrones) called him soon after the first teaser was released to say: “Yeah, we are guilty of whitewashing. We all know that only the Chinese defended the wall against the monsters when they attacked.”
Previously, director Zhang Yimou - best known for House of Flying Daggers, Hero, and Raise the Red Lantern - said of the controversy: “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.”
The Great Wall, which hits cinemas in 2017, marks the most expensive film ever shot entirely in China, having a budget of $135 million. Also at Comic-Con, a second trailer was released, showing more the film’s monsters.Reuse content