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The ups and downs of Matt Damon’s highly unfortunate press tour for ‘The Martian’

Matt Damon and James Corden perform a skit on “The Late Late Show with James Corden.” (Monty Brinton/CBS)

Usually, A-list celebrities don’t need to stress when they embark on a press tour promoting their latest project. They’ve done a million interviews, a ton of junkets, and generally know how to make appearances fun, charming and to the point.

So what went so wrong with Matt Damon these last few weeks?

The actor is just trying to promote his new Ridley Scott space thriller “The Martian,” but Damon found himself in hot water (twice!) for some pretty tone-deaf quotes about diversity. At the same time, he’s tried to gain some goodwill by goofing off on the late-night circuit. Here are the ups and downs of a press tour that has become kind of a disaster.

[Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and ‘The View’: A tale of three apologies]

UP: Sunday, Sept. 13 — “Project Greenlight” debut

Great! Matt Damon and best buddy Ben Affleck are back with their HBO show to change the life of a brand new director, who will get to helm a movie for the first time. And it’s just in time for Damon to get back in the spotlight before his new movie comes out.

DOWN: Monday, Sept. 14 — “Project Greenlight” backlash

Oops — Damon’s comments from the episode go viral online, thanks to a discussion he had about diversity with Effie Brown, the only black filmmaker in the room. Damon interrupted her as they went back and forth about choosing a director. “When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show,” Damon said. He later added, “It seems like you would undermine what the competition is supposed to be about, which is about giving somebody this job based entirely on merit.”

[Matt Damon faces online backlash after dismissing diversity behind the camera in Hollywood]

That led to a barrage of tweets like this:

…and Damon released an apology of sorts: “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.” He later told The Hollywood Reporter that the conversation was taken out of context (even though he’s an executive producer on “Project Greenlight”) and acknowledged that it came off as a very insensitive remark.

DOWN: Sunday, Sept. 27 — The Guardian interview

In an interview with The Guardian, Damon talks to the reporter about how when “Good Will Hunting” came out, people assumed he and writing partner Ben Affleck were gay.

“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. 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,” Damon said. “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.”

That comment didn’t please people, but it was nothing compared to the fallout of this one: “I think it must be really hard for actors to be out publicly,” Damon continued. “But in terms of actors, I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play.”

This did not go over well, and a slew of headlines about how Damon thought gay actors should stay in the closet proliferated online.

[Matt Damon has more ‘Damonsplaining’ to do — this time about alleged anti-gay comments]

UP (for Damon who gets to defend himself)/DOWN (for people that don’t believe him): Monday, Sept. 28 — Ellen DeGeneres appearance

During a pre-taped interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Damon gets the chance to clarify his comments.

He explained that his quotes were taken out of context and used to incite rage and page views. “I said this thing to the Guardian… and I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they’re a mystery. Right? And somebody picked it up and said I said gay actors should get back in the closet,” he said. “Which is like, I mean, it’s stupid. But it’s painful when things get said that you don’t believe… and then it gets represented that that’s what you believe. Because in the blogosphere, there’s no real penalty for just taking the ball and running with it. You know what I mean? You’re just trying to get people to click on to your thing.”

DeGeneres agreed that Damon shouldn’t be slammed for his comments. “I know you and I know you’re not that guy,” she said.

UP (if you’re not tired of this gag): Monday, Sept. 28 — Jimmy Kimmel appearance

Time to reignite the fake feud between Kimmel and Damon. If you’re not sick of this bit yet, it was probably funny to see them go to couple’s therapy:

UP (for people who like this kind of thing)/DOWN (for Damon’s dignity): Tuesday, Sept. 29 — James Corden appearance

Time for Damon to do the time-honored tradition required of movie stars lately and make a fool of himself on late-night television.

Read more:

The harsh truth about Mars water and NASA’s ‘Journey to Mars’

Damon, Scott book a return to space in ‘The Martian’

It’s sci-fi, but the new movie ‘The Martian’ has a lot of real science in it