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Matt Damon criticised for interrupting black producer Effie Brown and explaining diversity

The actor and director appeared to suggest diversity should be considered at the point of casting characters, not when choosing directors

Heather Saul
Wednesday 16 September 2015 14:40 BST
Matt Damon
Matt Damon (Getty)

Matt Damon has been criticised for explaining the concept of diversity to a black filmmaker during a conversation about choosing a director for a film about a black female prostitute.

The Martian actor is facing criticism for comments he made during an episode of HBO’s reality television series, Project Greenlight, which follows Damon and Ben Affleck as executive producers giving filmmakers an opportunity to make feature films on a $3 million budget.

The series returned for a fourth series ten years after the third instalment finished.

In the season premiere, a team of producers discussed which director they wanted to be chosen to turn a script into a film for the duration of the series, and Effie Brown, the producer of Dear White People and other feature films, was one filmmaker appearing on the series.

Brown stressed the importance of choosing a diverse directing team who can deal with the issue of the only black character in the film being a prostitute sensitively, telling the group: "I want to urge people to think about whoever this director is, the way they are going to treat the character of Harmony, her being a prostitute, the only black person being a hooker who gets hit by her white pimp.”

But according to Vox, Damon said the issue had been raised by less diverse directing teams. He also claimed diversity was not necessarily an issue for them to consider when choosing directors and was instead an issue for those casting characters in the film. As Brown tried to speak, Damon spoke over her and said: “When we’re talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show.”

Brown was visibly taken aback by his response and replied: “Wow, ok.”

His comments were poorly received on social media, with many users accusing Damon of 'whitesplaining' diversity.

In a segment later in the show, Damon briefly addressed the issue and said: “I’m glad Effie flagged the issue of diversity for all of us”.

However, he also insisted that the directing team should be chosen entirely on merit, otherwise “you would undermine what the competition is supposed to be about”.

The Independent has contacted Damon’s representative for comment.

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