Matt Damon’s Most Controversial Moments

Matt Damon, first of his name, The Uncanceled, King of Unforced Errors, and Releaser of Apologetic Statements has an almost mythical talent for repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth and then escaping from a week’s worth of bad headlines with his reputation unscathed. How does he do it? We don’t know. What we do know is that this is officially a pattern.

Over the course of his long career, Damon has come under fire for his bad takes on a variety of different topics — generally more than once. Following each minor scandal, Damon then releases an apologetic (or at least explanatory) statement saying that he’s learned from his mistakes and has grown as a person. Then we all forget it ever happened and go on thinking of Damon as a paradigm of good guyness until the next time he has to promote a movie and says another foolish thing.

The madness must stop, which is why we’ve put together this handy little primer of the most notable Matt Damon scandals so that the next time this happens, we can all be more prepared.

Did Matt Damon use the F-word slur?

While promoting his 2021 movie “Stillwater,” Matt Damon, of his own free will and without being asked, shared in an interview with the U.K. paper The Sunday Times that he had just recently stopped using the F-word slur to refer to gay people after being called out by his daughter.

“I made a joke, months ago, and got a treatise from my daughter,” Damon recalled. “She left the table. I said, ‘Come on, that’s a joke! I say it in the movie ‘Stuck on You!’ She went to her room and wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous. I said, ‘I retire the f-slur!’ I understood.”

Following a completely predictable backlash from people shocked that anyone would still be using that word, Damon released a statement explaining himself to Variety, saying that he actually never used that word at all. “I have never called anyone ‘f****t’ in my personal life and this conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening. I do not use slurs of any kind,” the actor said. So who do you believe? Matt Damon or Matt Damon? We’re going with Matt Damon.

He was accused of 'whitesplaining'

Matt Damon once caught a ton of heat for comments he made in an episode of his HBO show “Project Greenlight,” when he and other producers were debating which directing team to choose in the Season 4 premiere. One producer, Effie Brown, who was also the only person of color in the room, explained that diversity was important to her, and wanted a director who would be sensitive to the possible racial stereotyping in the script. Before she could finish her point, however, Damon cut her off, essentially arguing that the race of the director had no impact on how they might depict race on film. “And when we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show,” he said, in a statement described as peak “whitesplaining” and also “mansplaining.”

Following the backlash, Damon responded with an apology — of sorts. Per Variety, he said, “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.”

He once suggested shipping the Bush twins off to war

Even if he can seem a little clueless from time to time, Matt Damon has never been afraid to get political — even if it’s not popular, like that time he said to ship the Bush twins off to war, referring to then-president George W. Bush’s two daughters. This comment definitely set off some people in the United States, particularly those who identified as Republican and supported Bush.

But before anyone gets too heated, it’s important to take Damon’s comments into context. While speaking on the MSNBC show, “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” he was actually making a point about who has to join the military and fight in overseas wars and who doesn’t. “I don’t think that it’s fair that it seems like we have a ‘fighting class’ in our country … who have to go for financial reasons,” he said. “If we all get together and decide we need to go to war, then that needs to be shared by everybody. And if the president has daughters who are of age then maybe they should go too.”

He once suggested gay actors stay closeted

While we know Matt Damon probably means well, he should maybe stop talking about diversity in Hollywood or LGBTQ+ issues altogether. He set off (another) wave of controversy in 2015 when he suggested in an interview with The Guardian that gay actors should stay in the closet.

“I think it must be really hard for actors to be out publicly,” he mused. “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.” The backlash was swift. Social media lit up with angry responses, bloggers wrote take-down essays, and Elliot Page responded directly in an interview with Metro Weekly, saying, “He doesn’t have a point because he related it to sexuality. Heterosexual actors and actresses do not have to go to great lengths to hide their sexuality.”

Damon attempted to clarify the quote on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” telling the host, “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. Which is like I mean it’s stupid, but it is painful when things get said that you don’t believe.”

Well, we hope he learned something at least.

One interview Matt Damon gave about Harvey Weinstein could have gone better

We suppose Matt Damon could have responded to the Harvey Weinstein revelations in a more terrible way than he did — but not by a lot. In a Good Morning America interview, alongside George Clooney, Damon said he knew Weinstein was a “womanizer” but that he had no clue about all the harassment. “You know, I wouldn’t want to be married to the guy. But I’m not, you know, that’s not my business really. But this level of criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought was going on. Absolutely not,” he said.

Except he actually did know of at least one time that Weinstein had sexually harassed someone — Gwyneth Paltrow. “I knew the story about Gwyneth from Ben [Affleck], because he was with her after Brad [Pitt],” Damon admitted later in the interview. “I never talked to Gwyneth about it. Ben told me. But I knew that [Weinstein and Paltrow] had come to whatever agreement or understanding they had come to. She had handled it. And she was, you know, the First Lady of Miramax, and he treated her incredibly respectfully. Always.” We’re not so sure sexual harassment could be called respectful treatment, actually.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

He caught major heat for his #MeToo comments

Matt Damon shared his thoughts on the #MeToo movement multiple times, and they weren’t great. The actor was forced to apologize after an interview with ABC News’ “Popcorn With Peter Travers,” in which he said, among other things, that sexual assault happens on a “spectrum of behavior.” Oh, Matty, no.

“I do believe that there’s a spectrum of behavior. … You know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated,” he said, going on to condemn Harvey Weinstein but kinda sorta defending Louis C.K. “I’m a fan of his, but I don’t imagine he’s going to do those things again. You know what I mean? I imagine the price that he’s paid at this point is so beyond anything.”

Among the many people who called Damon out for his comments in this interview was his “Good Will Hunting” costar Minnie Driver who tweeted, “God God, SERIOUSLY?” After this, Damon gave perhaps his best apology ever, saying on the “Today” show, “A lot of those women are my dear friends and I love them and respect them and support what they’re doing and want to be a part of that change and want to go along for that ride. But I should get in the back seat and close my mouth for a while.”

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

He broke up with Minnie Driver in the worst way

When it comes to his ex, Minnie Driver, Matt Damon did her dirty. According to InStyle, Driver and Damon met when she was auditioning for “Good Will Hunting,” and they soon started dating. Driver later told The Telegraph that she fell completely in love with Damon while they were acting together, while Damon told David Letterman that she “pretty much rocked [his] world” (via InStyle).

Alas, after more than a year of dating, Damon broke it off. But instead of telling Driver that he wanted to end things, Damon told… Oprah Winfrey. As in, Damon announced that he was single during an appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” which was how Driver discovered that she no longer had a boyfriend. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Driver said, “It seemed like a good forum for him to announce to the world that we were no longer together, which I found fantastically inappropriate. Of course, he was busy declaring his love for me on David Letterman a month previously.”

While Driver was pretty open about how hurt she was by how the relationship ended, Damon was spotted out with Winona Ryder about five minutes later. Love sure does hurt.

Journalists accused Matt Damon of 'whitewashing'

As we all know by now, Matt Damon has some opinions on the way diversity works in Hollywood. The problem is that a lot of people think that these ideas are pretty garbage. The issue came up again when Damon was cast in the lead role in the movie “The Great Wall,” a fantasy epic set in ancient China. Many people, like Daily Beast columnist Jen Yamato and Atlantic columnist David Sims, felt that casting a white guy as the hero who saves China had an uncomfortable whiff of “white savior” and “whitewashing.”

“Though it’s rooted in Chinese history and culture, and is made by a Chinese director and studio, the film is already relying solely on the face of a well-known white American actor to sell its story,” Sims wrote. Damon, however, disagreed, telling The Associated Press (via The Guardian), “The whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously … it’s a monster movie and it’s a historical fantasy and I didn’t take a role away from a Chinese actor. It wasn’t altered because of me in any way.”

Even Matt Damon agreed that dissing Tony Gilroy was bad

Matt Damon obviously has no shortage of blockbuster films under his belt, but perhaps none so successful as the “Bourne” trilogy, which helped propel him to the tippy top of the A-list. This is why it was a bit of a head-scratcher when, in an interview with GQ, Damon absolutely hammered the films’ lead scriptwriter Tony Gilroy, for the third movie, “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

“I don’t blame Tony for taking a boatload of money and handing in what he handed in. It’s just that it was unreadable. This is a career-ender. I mean, I could put this thing up on eBay and it would be game over for that dude. It’s terrible. It’s really embarrassing. He was having a go, basically, and he took his money and left,” Damon said. Oh.

At some point, it seems Damon realized that this was maybe a tad bit harsh, and later called GQ to apologize for his statement. “My feelings were hurt. That’s all. And that’s exactly why I shouldn’t have said anything. This is between me and him. So saying anything publicly is f*cking stupid and unprofessional and just kind of douchey of me,” he said, per Vulture. Well, at least he said sorry.

He's been called out for his friends

It’s not just poorly thought-out statements that get Matt Damon in trouble. One of the more serious controversies he’s stirred up has to do with the movie “Manchester by the Sea,” his buddies Ben and Casey Affleck, and sexual harassment allegations.

Producer Amanda White and cinematographer Magdalena Gorka, who worked with Casey on his film “I’m Still Here,” both sued the actor in 2010, alleging that he verbally and physically sexually harassed them throughout the entire time they worked with him on the movie. Casey first denied the allegations, then settled the suits for an undisclosed amount out of court, according to The Cut.

Part of the reason none of these allegations seemed to stick? Matt Damon. Even knowing about these allegations, Damon personally chose Casey to star in “Manchester by the Sea,” and then lead the charge for his Oscar campaign, telling anyone who would listen how great he was. We don’t know for sure if the allegations are true — but critics in The Cut and Vox, among others, didn’t think this was the greatest look.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN’s National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Matt Damon (sort of) freaked out at Adrian Grenier

There is also the occasional Matt Damon controversy that turns out not to be a controversy at all — like the time he supposedly lost his cool at Adrian Grenier. Back in 2009, a video leaked that appeared to show Damon shouting and swearing at the erstwhile “Entourage” actor while directing a PSA that Grenier was starring in.

“You’re maybe trying too hard, or you’re not trying hard enough, I don’t know what the f***ing problem is!” Damon shouts in the clip. “Let’s go, it’s f***ing five lines, man!” Well, that sure didn’t look good. At the end of the video, Damon shouts, “If you don’t want to do it, walk away, I’ll get someone who can do it,” with a few “F you”s thrown in for good measure.

However, before you get too excited, this clip was pretty quickly discovered to be nothing more than a leaked clip of Damon’s cameo on “Entourage.” As Gawker noted at the time, it was likely a planned leak meant to help promote both Damon’s charity, OneXOne.org, and Grenier’s show. Looks like it worked.

Amanda Knox called Matt Damon out by name

While promoting his 2021 movie “Stillwater,” Matt Damon and the movie’s director Tom McCarthy explained in interviews that the movie was a fictional story inspired by Amanda Knox but not based on the actual events of her story. But the real-life Knox was not thrilled about having her name invoked in these interviews.

In a long tweet thread and later an article in The Atlantic, Knox explained how having her name invoked while promoting the movie was harmful. “By fictionalizing away my innocence, by erasing the role of the authorities in my wrongful conviction, McCarthy reinforces an image of me as guilty,” she wrote. “And with Damon’s star power, both are sure to profit handsomely off this imagined version of ‘the Amanda Knox saga’ that will leave plenty of viewers wondering, ‘Maybe the real-life Amanda was involved somehow.'”

In response to her critique, Damon told The Irish Examiner, “I actually didn’t think about it at all, because it was just a jumping-off point for our story.” He added, “Ours is a fictitious family. I have no idea what Amanda Knox’s father looks like or does for a living. I don’t know, because I didn’t pay attention to that.”

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