Matt Damon has apologized and blamed the editing for comments he made during the first episode of Project Greenlight‘s fourth season, in which he rejected another producer’s concern about diversity.
The season premiere include the producers of Project Greenlight deliberating about which director to hire, and during that, Effie Brown—a successful film producer who will produce the Project Greenlight movie and happens to be a black female—expressed some concerns.
Here’s Variety’s transcript of what she said:
“I want to urge people to think about, whoever this director is, the way that they’re going to treat the character of Harmony, her being a prostitute—the only black person being a hooker who gets hit by her white pimp. You’re looking at this group right here, and who you’re picking, and the story that you’re doing, and I just want to make sure we’re doing our best.”
Matt Damon, who happens to be a white male, interrupted and said (again, Variety):
“The only team that’s left with diversity is the team that announced that they liked this script the most as it is, and that’s Leo and Kristen. Everyone else had major problems with it, with exactly the things that you’re bringing up, and exactly the things that we brought up to each other. I think on the surface, they might look like one thing, but they might end up giving us something that we don’t want. And when we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show.”
I picked up on that last line in my recap of the first episode because I thought it was a fascinating admission about the difference, or lack thereof, between the reality show and the film. So, I completely missed how insulting that was, especially considering who was talking to who and how (a white man interrupting a black woman to explain diversity to her), until I read some thoughtful pieces about it:
- Todd VanDerWerff explained how Matt Damon inadvertently demonstrates why Hollywood isn’t more diverse
- Aisha Harris wrote about how Project Greenlight Revealed Exactly Why Hollywood Still Has a Diversity Problem
Three days after the episode aired, Damon addressed the criticism and controversy by releasing this statement:
“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.
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. 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.”
So, to recap, he 1) blames the editing for eliminating the context, and 2) apologizes for offending people, not for what he said, that classic cop-out quasi-apology, and 3) congratulates himself for “[starting] a conversation about diversity in Hollywood.” That’s not really an adequate response.