The Martian star Matt Damon acknowledges that public opinion of him has shifted sharply in the wake of several controversial statements about representation in the media.
While NASA does its best to give Ridley Scott’s The Martian some good publicity — they even helpfully discovered water on Mars this week — the movie’s star Matt Damon has been getting himself into a whole other kind of deep water.
It started when Damon, on a pre-taped episode of HBO’s The Greenlighters, went into a long spiel about representation on film and TV, and managed to express the sentiment that race visibility was only relevant in front of, not behind, the camera.
Related: The problem of diversity in Hollywood is bigger than Matt Damon’s ignorant comments (opinion)
Then, shifting the foot in his mouth over to make room for another one, Damon shared his outdated thoughts on sexuality in the media, telling The Guardian that being anything other than straight in Hollywood can harm an actor’s career (which is not necessarily wrong, unfortunately, and yet it is the perpetuation of these stereotypes that prolong the problem).
“It’s just like any piece of gossip… and it put us in a weird position of having to answer, you know what I mean? Which was then really deeply offensive,” Damon said, referring to old rumors that he and his Good Will Hunting co-star Ben Affleck were romantically involved. “I don’t want to, like [imply] it’s some sort of disease – then it’s like I’m throwing my friends under the bus. But at the time, I remember thinking and saying, Rupert Everett was openly gay and this guy – more handsome than anybody, a classically trained actor – it’s tough to make the argument that he didn’t take a hit for being out.”
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Matt Damon addressed some of his recent flubs. Speaking about The Greenlighters, he claimed that his comments were taken out of context. When he saw the final cut, “I went, ‘Oh my God, I look like an asshole.’ I thought it was a really insensitive thing to say.”
Meanwhile, on The Ellen Show, Damon tried to backtrack on his Guardian comments, saying, “I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they’re a mystery. And somebody picked it up and said I said gay actors should get back in the closet. Which is like, I mean, it’s stupid, but it is painful when things get said that you don’t believe.”
Obviously, when you speak to the press as much as someone like Matt Damon does, it is inevitable that you will occasionally phrase yourself poorly. And clearly, Damon is doing plenty of damage control.
There is probably more ignorance than malicious intent behind his words (claiming that actors are more effective when they’re a mystery might work better if Damon didn’t himself flaunt his heterosexual marriage in a completely unmysterious manner, for instance), but at least it’s opened the doors for some important discussions about these issues.
And hey, if you need a break from this planet, The Martian premieres October 2, 2015.
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