It seemed just yesterday that dreamboat Matt Damon seemed slightly less dreamy after he told an African American producer she need not worry about diversity.
“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,” he said on his HBO show “Project Greenlight,” in which newbies compete for a chance to make a $3 million movie.
Damon later walked back what was sarcastically hash-tagged “Damonsplaining,” saying he believes “deeply that there need to be more diverse filmmakers making movies.”
But Damon has stepped in it again, offering comments that seemed to imply gay actors should stay in the closet.
“I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period,” he told the Guardian in a piece published Sunday while pushing his new film “The Martian. “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.”
Damon and Ben Affleck, Damon said, faced rumors that they were romantically involved when they made “Good Will Hunting” in the 1990s. This was tough.
“It’s just like any piece of gossip,” Damon said. “… 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 homosexuality is] some sort of disease — then it’s like I’m throwing my friends under the bus.”
Then, Damon appeared to take a shot of sorts at Rupert Everett, an openly gay actor whose star has faded since he went public about his sexual orientation.
“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,” Damon said.
There was outrage. Damon was the voice of the heterosexual male establishment, some said, preaching that homosexuality was unacceptable.
“Damon is preaching about actors’ sexuality being none of the public’s business in the same interview in which he casually talks about his wife, kids, and fatherhood on several occasions,” Kevin Fallon wrote at the Daily Beast in a piece called “Shut Up, Matt Damon.” “And I would like for someone to convincingly make the case that a straight actor who follows his advice — not talking about being straight — will see his or her career affected in any way by such secrecy about their heterosexuality. Or that their career would be harmed in any way by talking about their opposite-sex relationship or love life.”
But Damon was quickly on defense.
“I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they’re a mystery, right?” Damon said Monday on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” — perhaps the perfect outlet for clarifying alleged homophobic speech. “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’s painful when things get said that you don’t believe. You know what I mean? And then it gets represented that, that’s what you believe.”
He added: “In the blogosphere, there’s no real penalty for taking the ball and running with it. You’re just trying to get people to click on your thing.”
DeGeneres offered an empathetic ear.
“I know you, and I know you’re not that guy,” DeGeneres said. Then, she turned the incident into a joke: “And it shocks me that you and Ben are not gay, but if you want to deny it and keep your ‘mystery’ and your ‘marriage’ and your ‘daughters’ …”
For the record, Everett has linked his career struggles to his sexuality in the past.
“The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business,” he told the Guardian in 2009. “It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point.”
He added: “It’s not that advisable to be honest. It’s not very easy. And, honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.”