'The Martian' star explains the full 'Project Greenlight' discussion with producer Effie Brown that led to his controversial diversity comments

By People Staff
Updated December 31, 2015 12:30 AM
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Credit: Karwai Tang/WireImage

Matt Damon is still apologizing for his controversial comments about diversity in film.

The Martian star found himself the target of much criticism when, during an episode of the HBO’s filmmaking competition Project Greenlight on which aired earlier this year, Damon and fellow producer Effie Brown (Dear White People) debated diverse casting on the show, a scene which Damon says was edited.

“The idea that I would say that there didn’t need to be diversity behind the camera, it’s not only complete anathema to what I believe in my heart and always have,” Damon tells the New York Times. “But it s not something that I think anybody would ever say with a camera on.”

Damon explains that there was more to the dialogue between himself and Brown, a successful black film producer, and that at the time of that conversation he and fellow producer Ben Affleck were already frustrated with the fact they hadn’t cast a more diverse group of directors for the show, the plot for which involves Damon and Affleck awarding a $3 million film budget to aspiring filmmakers competing to direct the same script.

“When Effie was advocating for the woman and the Vietnamese-American guy, what I actually said was, Are we judging a contest or are we casting a reality show?'” he says. “And that s when she said, ‘Wow.’ And I went, no, Effie, I’m completely serious, what is our responsibility at this point? Because we had already blown it on the competition.”

Damon goes on to say that the brief moment of tension didn’t seem to impact his relationship with Brown. “We were fine that day,” he says. “It wasn t like I left and said, ‘Boy, I got in an argument with Effie Brown, and I don t think she would have left thinking that she had had an argument with me. But the truth is, Effie did an awesome job for us. She s an awesome producer.”