Matt Damon apologized Wednesday for saying during an episode of HBO's "Project Greenlight" that diversity is only important among actors that appear on screen, and not among directors working behind the camera.
As NBC News reported
, the flap came during Sunday's broadcast. Damon and pal Ben Affleck — the creators of the reality show — were discussing a proposed film project in which the only black character is a prostitute who gets hit by her white pimp.
The only black person and only female among the show's judges, prominent film producer Effie Brown, suggested that one team of contestants consisting of a white woman and Asian man — Leo Kei Angelos and Kristen Brancaccio — might avoid turning the prostitute character into a boring stereotype.
Damon seemed to reject the notion, and took his rejection a step further, saying, "When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show [behind the camera]."
"Hooh! Wow, OK," Brown responded in shock.
Damon tried to clarify, saying the competition called for judging candidates "based entirely on merit," and that it's possible a white director could be as sensitive to the portrayal of minority characters as a minority director.
Many interpreted Damon's comments to mean that minority directors aren't important.
"Just so we’re clear, Matt Damon thinks that diversity in Hollywood amounts to simply hiring people of color to be in the movies — not allowing them any power to make the movies themselves," wrote Jezebel.com
Social media soon exploded with indignation, accusing Damon of being racist and both "white-splaining" and "man-splaining" how Hollywood works to a black, female director.
The backlash prompted Damon to issue an apology.
"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 in a statement.
"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."
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