Matt Damon's 'Diversity in Hollywood' Remarks on 'Project Greenlight' Cause Twitter Uproar

by Jackie Willis 11:06 AM PDT, September 15, 2015
Playing Matt Damon's 'Diversity in Hollywood' Remarks on 'Project Greenlight' Cause Twitter Uproar

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.

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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.

Photo: HBO

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"I would want to urge people to think about, whoever this director is, how they're going to treat the character of Harmony," she implored.

Brown lobbied for directing duo Leo Angelos and Kristen Brancaccio, an Asian man and white woman, would be a good choice among the show's competitors to make the movie.

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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."

"Wow, OK," Brown responded.

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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."

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He added, "This is strictly a film-making competition."

The group ended up choosing Jason Mann to direct. Mann then decided to have the script rewritten by Greenlight season one winner, Pete Jones.

Since the episode aired, Damon's views have become a trending topic, with the hashtag #DamonSplaining making the rounds.

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"Dear Matt: while you're at it, maybe you could give me some tips on being more Indian or better yet, being a woman #DamonSplaining," one Twitter user responded to the actor's comments.

"Matt Damon to the rescue to teach an accomplished Black women about diversity in a room full of well-off White men," another tweet read.

"When you realize even the most liberal white dudes in Hollywood will mansplain representation to you," Twitter user Alanna Bennett reacted. 

"Matt Damon interrupted Effie Brown, a WoC filmmaker, to explain diversity," read another message. "I love irony."

Twitter user Ferrari Sheppard pointed out: "'Well actually, let me tell you how diversity should work, only black woman in the room.'- Matt Damon"

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."