Matt Damon criticised "outrageous" stories in the era of fake news as he responded on Tuesday to accusations his role in the new China-Hollywood co-production The Great Wall should have gone to an Asian actor.
Some critics have said Damons casting as the lead character amounted to "whitewashing," in which Caucasians are chosen for roles that should have gone to actors from other ethnicities.
The American actor said he thought of whitewashing as applying to Caucasian actors who wore makeup to appear to be of another race, as was common in the early days of film and television, when racism was overt.
"That whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously," Damon said in an interview, using the example of the Irish-American actor Chuck Connors, who played the lead character in the 1962 film Geronimo, about the famed Apache chief.
Damon, 46, plays a British mercenary in the upcoming $150 million adventure fantasy about a Chinese army battling monsters, helmed by acclaimed director Zhang Yimou.
The movies trailer sparked criticism in the US that a white man had been chosen to play the lead, who saves the day, in a film set in China meant to showcase Chinese culture.
The furor came amid other accusations of a lack of diversity and opportunities for Asian actors in Hollywood.
Damon and Zhang said that because of the demands of the story, Damons role was always intended to be European.
Damon said the controversy would subside "once people see that its a monster movie and its a historical fantasy and I didnt take a role away from a Chinese actor ... it wasnt altered because of me in any way."
The film is the first Sino-Hollywood co-production and first English-language film for Zhang, the director of the romantic Kung Fu drama House of Flying Daggers and the opulent opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
It also stars Pedro Pascal of "Game of Thrones" as Damons sword-wielding partner in crime, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau. Jing Tian plays the woman lead warrior. Also appearing are Eddie Peng of the boxing drama Unbeatable and Lu Han, a former boy band sensation.
Most Chinese co-productions with the West have been box-office flops, but producers hope The Great Wall can show that big-budget Sino-Hollywood co-productions can work.
Hollywood is eager to work with Chinese actors and producers to appeal to the Chinese cinema-going market, expected to outgrow the current No 1 market, North America, within the next two or three years. The Chinese government has long sought to project cultural influence abroad and hopes that The Great Wall will be an international blockbuster.
The film debuts in Chinese cinemas on December 16 followed by other countries, including the United States in February.