Speaking to the nature of the competition and the broader conversation on diversity, Damon apologized to those he may have offended and clarified the context and meaning of his comments.
“I believe deeply that there need to be more diverse filmmakers making movies,” Damon said in a statement. “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 added: “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.”
Damon found himself in the center of controversy after a heated debate with Effie Brown, a successful black film producer, aired on the season four premiere of Project Greenlight. In the show, Damon and Ben Affleck award a $3 million film budget to aspiring filmmakers competing to direct the same script.
While the panelists were deciding who should win the grant, Brown wanted to pull for a directing team that included a white female and an Asian male (Leo and Kristen), and stressed the importance of choosing a diverse directing team that could properly deal with the issue of the only black character in the film being a prostitute.
“I would just want to urge people to think about whoever this director is, the way that they are going to treat the character of Harmony with her being a prostitute, the only black person being a hooker who gets hit by her white pimp,” she said. “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 that we are doing our best.”
Damon, 44, cut in to point out that other, less diverse teams had also raised the same concerns and claimed diversity was not necessarily an issue for them to consider when choosing a director, but that it should be the focus during the casting process.
“When we’re talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show,” he said.
Damon’s comments sparked fervent online chatter. Some social media accused Damon of "whitesplaining" diversity.