Responding to the controversy surrounding this year’s all white Oscar nominees, Oscar-winning actor Matt Damon told reporters at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend that Hollywood has a “long, long, long way to go” in regards to becoming more racially diverse.
The actor, who is nominated for a Best Actor award this year for his role in The Martian, also blamed the Academy’s snubbing of black actors on “systemic injustices.”
“We’re talking about huge systemic injustices around race and gender that are a lot bigger than the Oscars,” he told the Associated Press. “They’re massive issues in our industry and in our country.”
On Jan.14, the Academy announced that for a second straight year, all 20 nominations in the main acting categories went to white actors.
Damon added the lack of diversity at this 88th Academy Awards is “shameful and embarrassing that there were two years in a row without a single actor of color nominated.”
“That’s insane,” said the four-time Oscar nominee.
Last Friday, the Academy rolled out a series of aggressive new measures to its voting rules and organizational structure, which are aimed at doubling the number of female and minority members by the year 2020. The actions were taken following a growing boycott by numerous prominent industry figures of the Feb. 28 awards show and telecast.
The measures will ultimately remove voting privileges from older Academy members and aggressively recruit new voting members “who represent greater diversity.”
In regards to the action taken, Damon told Bustle: “I’m glad that Cheryl Boone Isaacs [Academy President] took some action. It’s a strong first step. That is all it is, it’s a first step.
“This is gonna be a very long road,” he said. “But I’m glad there’s at least a first step.”
Last September, Damon was forced to apologize over a racially charged comment he made during the fourth season premiere of his reality TV show Project Greenlight.
In the episode, the leftwing actor suggested to filmmaker Effie Brown, who is a black woman, that racial diversity only mattered onscreen and not behind it.
“When we talk about diversity, you do it in the casting of the movie, not the casting of the show,” Damon said, suggesting that having a diverse cast of actors playing the parts is more important than having a diverse filmmaking team working behind the scenes.
He later apologized, saying he believed “deeply that there need to be more diverse filmmakers making movies.”
“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,” He said. “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.”
Two weeks after his comments to Brown about diversity, Damon again came under fire for suggesting gay performers keep their sexuality private.
“I think it must be really hard for actors to be out publicly,” said the Martian actor. “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.”
Damon later defended his comments about sexuality.