Matt Damon opens mouth, world face palms
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck used to have a show called Project Greenlight, in which they and a panel of filmmakers chose a script and a director and set them loose with a small budget to make a movie. It aired three seasons on Bravo from 2001-2005, and the only movie I remember from it is the hilariously bad horror movie, Feast. HBO recently revived the show—because the reboot craze is infecting TV now, too—and in a recent episode Damon deep-throated his own foot when he got into a tiff with producer Effie Brown, a African-American woman with nearly twenty years in the industry and dozens of credits to her name, about diversity in film. Here’s the clip from the show:
WATCH: Matt Damon attempts to white-splain racial diversity to a black female producer in Hollywood. pic.twitter.com/NeMtz1tR94— Tyree Boyd-Pates (@TyreeBP) September 14, 2015
This clip is obviously edited, and it’s edited to make this moment confrontational. There’s an obvious cut at the beginning of the clip that makes it look like Damon interrupts Brown, but we can’t know for sure he actually did in that moment cut her off. This is for TV, where drama drives the narrative, and Matt Damon and a prominent African-American producer squaring off over diversity pushes all the right buttons. And given that this is TV, and this is deliberately edited to appear a certain way, I’d wager there will be a payoff down the line where Brown is vindicated. Reality TV is never really real, and Project Greenlight is reality TV. We’re seeing what they want us to see for a reason. At the very least, they intend for us to have this conversation. At the most, there is actual payoff coming. For sure, they knew how this would go over.
Far more disturbing is the way Damon links diversity and merit. This is always the argument made in defense of the status quo, that the best director should get the job regardless of race. No one argues that, but the problem is that those opportunities disproportionately go to white guys, because they are overwhelmingly the only ones going to the pitch meeting. How do you know you’ve got the best director when you’re not even seeing all the candidates? But they always fall back on the tedious belief that somehow, magically, white guys are always the best option to direct damn near every movie. I am far more troubled by this than the fact that Damon argued with a fellow producer in the first place.
Ultimately, Matt Damon allowed this to be included in the show. He could have had it cut to save face, but he didn’t—like some other people we could name, BEN AFFLECK. Hopefully this means he took something away from that moment he thinks it’s important for others to learn, too, even if it means living with egg on his face. (We’ll find out when the series unfolds, and if it turns out that his ignorance holds up, we’ll throw some more sh-t at him then.) Also, last Friday at the TIFF press conference for The Martian, when the issue of diverse casting came up—in regards to a movie that white-washed an Asian character—Damon was much more collected on the topic. (You can see it at the 35 minute mark here.) He basically declines to participate in the conversation, hopefully because he’s learned, thanks to Effie Brown, that it’s not really his place to explain or defend diversity in filmmaking. But just in case he hasn’t—NEVER FORGET:
John Shearer/ Getty Images