On July 28, acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) released the first photos and trailer of his — and his country’s — most expensive movie ever. Many audiences were surprised to see that The Great Wall was not about the construction of China’s 5,500-mile long Wonder of the World, but instead a full-fledged monster movie.
But many more were surprised and disappointed that the film, set about 1,000 years ago, starred white American actor Matt Damon. In a lengthy tweet posted one day after the trailer debut, Fresh Off the Boat star Constance Wu criticized the project for “perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world” and wrote, “Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon.”
In a statement provided exclusively to EW, Zhang addresses the controversy, explaining that Damon’s character serves an important plot point, and defends his film against charges of racism. Read his full statement below.