BEIJING — Acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou has responded to criticism from an Asian-American actress over the casting of “white man” Matt Damon as his movie’s lead, saying the role was never conceived for a Chinese actor.

Damon of the “Bourne” franchise will star later this year in the $150 million Chinese-Hollywood fantasy movie “The Great Wall,” an English-language movie set in China involving menacing supernatural monsters.

Constance Wu, who stars in a U.S. comedy series centered on immigrants called “Fresh Off the Boat,” posted on Twitter last week: “We have to stop perpetuating the racist myth that a only (sic) white man can save the world.”

“Our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon,” her post read, listing alternatives such as Pakistani schoolgirl turned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi and South African president and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela.

“The Great Wall” is the first English-language movie by 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.

“The Great Wall” is due to be released in December in China and in early 2017 elsewhere.

– From news service reports