Matt Damon's 'Diversity in Hollywood' Remarks on 'Project Greenlight' Cause Twitter Uproar
By Jackie Willis
Matt Damon angered some viewers during Sunday's season four premiere of HBO's Project Greenlight when he seemingly attempted to provide his take on diversity in Hollywood to African-American film producer Effie Brown.
On this season, several aspiring filmmakers vie for the opportunity to direct a $3 million comedic movie whose black female lead, Harmony, is a prostitute. The panel members -- including the Farrelly Brothers and Ben Affleck -- chose who will direct the film in the first episode and go on to act as mentors and producers on the project.
Brown, who was the only black person on the panel, asked her peers to take note that the prostitute role is "the only black person" in the movie and is "a hooker who gets hit by her white pimp." The producer has worked on over 17 feature films including Dear White People.
Damon cut her off, saying that he doesn't think diversity is as big of an issue when choosing a Project Greenlight winner. "I will say that the only team that is left with diversity is the team that announced they like this script the most as it is, and that is Leo and Kristen. Everyone else had major problems with it and exactly what you're bringing up and exactly the things that we brought up to each other," the 44-year-old Oscar winner told Brown. "So I think on the surface they might look like one thing, but they might end up giving us something that we don't want."
Damon went on to say that when it comes to diversity, that's "what you do in the casting of the movie, not the casting of the show."
Damon further clarified, saying, "Ultimately and suddenly, if you change the rules of this competition at the 11th hour, it seems like you would undermine what the competition was supposed to be about, which is about giving somebody this job based entirely on merit and leaving all other factors out of it."
In a statement to ET, Damon addressed the controversy.
"I believe deeply that there need to be more diverse filmmakers making movies. I love making movies. It’s what I have chosen to do with my life and I want every young person watching Project Greenlight to believe that filmmaking is a viable form of creative expression for them too," he said.
"My comments were part of a much broader conversation about diversity in Hollywood and the fundamental nature of Project Greenlight which did not make the show," Damon continued. "I am sorry that they offended some people, but, at the very least, I am happy that they started a conversation about diversity in Hollywood. That is an ongoing conversation that we all should be having."
Prior to the show's premiere, Damon shared with ET what season four of Project Greenlight meant to him and Affleck, who are the executive producers of the series.
"For us, in particular, when we came on the scene with Good Will Hunting all those years ago, we kind of did it in a non-traditional way, and so a lot of people asked us, 'How the hell did that happen?'" he said. "So it always felt like there was some other way to launch some careers and we always felt it was kind of incumbent on us to do that."