Matt Damon is just now ‘waking up to the extent of the existing racism’

74th Venice Film Festival - 'Downsizing' - Photocall

Matt Damon is in Venice to promote and premiere two films, Downsizing and Suburbicon. Matty D sat down for a lengthy interview with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of this evening premiere of Surburbicon (the interview was probably done days ago) and he chatted a lot about the George Clooney-directed film, and the political situation in America today. Matty D has always been a politically liberal guy, even if he has had some blind spots when it comes to race and diversity issues. Obviously, he’s appalled by Trump and appalled by the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and more. You can read the full THR piece here. Some highlights:

Whether he takes characters home, or personalizes his characters: “No. As a younger actor, I did that — you spin your wheels a lot. I heard Anthony Hopkins once say that the older he got, the more refined his process became, and he wasted a lot less energy. It’s not that you’re working less, it’s just that you’re working more efficiently. But you are available to what’s happening around you. The last monologue in the movie was [shot] the week of the election, and the shock of Trump winning — everyone, the people who voted for him and the one’s who didn’t, experienced this incredible “Oh my God, he won!” So there was something in the air, that rage. George and I talked about it, and that’s the third rail we were trying to touch in that scene.

The darkness of ‘Suburbicon’ in Trump’s America: “We made the movie last year and it’s incredible to see what’s happened in Charlottesville. It’s horrible. A lot of people, myself included, are really waking up to the extent of the existing racism, and it’s so much worse than I naively thought. I just feel naïve at this point. It was shocking to see those kids — they looked 20 and 30 years old — in button-down shirts, with Tiki torches, walking down the street. I thought, “Those people are a lot younger than me. Who raised them?” Again, I naively thought that, behind our generation, [another one] was coming with more awareness and inclusiveness, and that everything was getting better with each generation. And to see these young, aggrieved, white boys walking with their torches and screaming “Jews will not replace us!” It was just shocking. Then the night that the President [made his] “many sides” comment was absolutely abhorrent. Sadly, I feel the movie was made at the right time.

Whether he’s ever met Trump: “No. The deal was that if you wanted to shoot in one of his buildings, you had to write him in a part. [Director] Martin Brest had to write something in Scent of a Woman — and the whole crew was in on it. You have to waste an hour of your day with a bullsh-t shot: Donald Trump walks in and Al Pacino’s like, “Hello, Mr. Trump!” — you had to call him by name — and then he exits. You waste a little time so that you can get the permit, and then you can cut the scene out. But I guess in Home Alone 2 they left it in.

Whether he feels he should use his celebrity voice to speak out on politics: “Look, everybody’s got a voice at this point and everybody’s shouting their opinions. But I’m obviously very concerned with the state of things and with the damage that’s being done to our institutions; it’s just very pernicious what he’s doing. Robert Mueller is kind of representing these institutions at this point, and just by some trick of history he’s the one who’s essentially defending them against these attacks, so hopefully his investigation is going smoothly. He can’t wrap things up soon enough, as far as I’m concerned. I thought Jimmy Kimmel’s line was the best, when he said that Trump said there were fine people on both sides, and showed the clip of the guys screaming “Jews will not replace us,” and cut back to Jimmy saying: “Let’s get something straight. If you’re with a group of people chanting “Jews will not replace us” and you don’t immediately leave that group, you are not a fine person.”

[From THR]

“A lot of people, myself included, are really waking up to the extent of the existing racism, and it’s so much worse than I naively thought. I just feel naïve at this point.” This is what’s happening around the country – all of those people are finally waking up to the fact that this sh-t has been happening for so long. The Trump presidency has made all of the creepy-crawlies climb out from underneath their rocks. Trump has legitimized them and given them a platform. And now so many white folks are shook. At least Matty D owns that.

Damon was also asked if there was a recent film he really loved, and he cited Moonlight: “I absolutely loved that film and I saw it three times…” It was sort of brilliant, in retrospect, how they marketed that film to appeal to white liberals, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I loved Moonlight too and it’s an amazing movie. But the film won the Best Picture Oscar because it was brilliantly marketed to Hollywood’s white liberals, who felt guilty about #OscarsSoWhite, Donald Trump and more.

74th Venice Film Festival - Celebrity Sightings - Day 3

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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71 Responses to “Matt Damon is just now ‘waking up to the extent of the existing racism’”

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  1. Star St. says:

    How about the film won because it was good?

    • slowsnow says:

      Every time I see a film about slavery, racism, colonialism I feel this overwhealming white guilt. But it did not make me like 12 years a slave which I find an overrated film by an overrated film maker whose art I’ve known for years. One thing is the guilt and the other the quality of the art. We are at a point where some traditionally interesting stories are getting boring and bypassed by more pressing and urgent realities. Thank the gods.
      So, yes, I agree with you. It won because it was good, like 12 years a slave had very very good acting (although I don’t agree with the general opinion about it) and was a necessary narrative after the stupid films glorifying the gorey aspect of slavery and racial crimes.

      • Jess says:

        If you felt “white guilt” then that’s your own silly, personal problem you need to get over. How typical that “some” people can watch a movie about slavery and systematic racism that was created in the U.S. and think “hmm how can I make this about me? White guilt!” Don’t blame it on the brilliance of 12 Years… by the incredibly talented Steve McQueen.

      • slowsnow says:

        Thanks @Jess for your lovely comment. Of course it’s silly. That’s what I meant. It’s not about us white people or about rich people or about celebs. It’s about art and prizes are about the art and the context. And people who don’t love the films you do are not automatically meat for your grinder.
        I kindly suggest you get over yourself.

      • magnoliarose says:

        That is interesting because I don’t feel that but I do feel helpless. It might be because my history isn’t connected to that. I know it is a thing though.
        Moonlight was haunting. I am glad it won over LLL. I hated that garbage.

      • slowsnow says:

        At undergraduate level, I studied Portuguese, my own language, in Paris with Brazilians, Mozambicans etc. First time I had to study “other country’s” Portuguese. The Brazilians ended up telling me a story about a horrible Portuguese slave owner that scattered bad behaved slave’s teeth (that he pulled) in the street. I was very critical of the “Discoveries” as the discovering and appropriating of other people’s countries is grandly called in Portugal but I had no idea that I would be included in the narrative as I placed myself outside of it, of the “I am different” kind of mentality. I had – and probably still do – such little knowledge of how other Portuguese speaking nations spoke, thought, or told the same story I thought I knew so well.
        I was 18. Of course now I know that we all inherited a fucked-up history that is tearing us apart. But it’s more fucked up for some than for others. So yes, helplessness is very much a feeling but also a strong belief in art and in the need for other narratives.
        Soooo glad Moonlight won ;-)

      • magnoliarose says:

        Brazil has a very dark history. There are of course nice things about it but sometimes I feel like history has to be dealt with since it never really goes away.

        One of the positives of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu is that smaller movies about interesting subjects with diverse casts can get made. There are no huge budgets that rely on overseas markets.
        It sounds like your trip to Paris was a learning experience for you I hope it was fun too.

    • Mia4s says:

      Yes it was good….but a film being “good” is sadly only a small part of winning an Oscar. Many classic and extraordinary movies missed out on Oscars to lesser films that ran a better campaign. So I applaud it as a wonderful film…and for running a great campaign.

    • lisa says:

      yeah i think moonlight was really well put together and imo the best of the ones nominated

      maybe it had a good campaign, but the OP, prob not intentionally, makes it sound like it only won because of that

    • Jenn says:

      Matt will say anything to keep those big cheques coming in!!

  2. FishBeard says:

    I think Moonlight won on it’s own merits. It appealed to people because it’s heartbreaking and powerful.

    • Mia4s says:

      “Oscar” and “merits” are only sort of related. As I said in my comment above you’d be stunned at some movies that lost at Oscar…and the mediocre films they lost too. Wonderful movie; but without a smart campaign it would not have won. Welcome to the Academy!

  3. Jillian says:

    Another privileged white-American male.

  4. ericka says:

    I don’t blame him at all, everyone has different experiences and your opinions are based on them. I will give you an example: I am South American and live in Florida, my daughter attends a private school in a middle/high neighborhood. I have few mom friends, they are super nice and one of them told me that another mom is an expert baker and she decorates and sells cakes and cupcakes, she posted pictures on her facebook page of the cake she made for her son’s birthday and they were both exchanging compliments online, other moms also recommended her and they told me she iwas very friendly and professional. I saw her at the school’s cafeteria and stopped by to say hello and talk to her (to order cupcakes for my daughter’s class) and she was super rude to me, she was curt, mean and arrogant. Later on, I found out through a Cuban friend, that the woman is a racist. I never mentioned anything to my American friends because they have the highest opinion of this lady, therefore, they would never understand my position and I don’t want to create any misunderstandings with them.

    • UmYeah says:

      Thats a terrible situation and im sorry you had to deal with that. Maybe you should tell your American friends so that they know who that woman really is and how this woman treated you, i would want to know so i could ice out that lady. It doesnt matter if someone is nice to me if they are being racist DBs to others, i wouldnt want to know them.

      • ArchieGoodwin says:

        youd’ think that would work, but they’d justify her actions and comments, I’d bet money on it. Chances are, they already know and overlook it.

        if it’s one thing people who live in bubbles can’t stand, it’s when they burst.

        @Erika, I am both appalled and not surprised you had to face that, in 2017. ((hugs)) to you, to your continued strength and hopefully the knowledge that people fight back will help.

    • Bitsy says:

      @Ericka every person of color has a similar story. And @archiegoodwin, you’re 100%correct that people hate bubble busters. The messenger always gets shot. At my son private school, it was 35% black and about 20% hispanic his kindergarten year. Many of those parents helped build the school with money, time, and donations. The original principal became sick and was replaced by a disgusting racist bigot who immediately got rid of the Spanish program, most of the ethnic teachers, and treated the parents of color with shocking indifference. When a group of us expressed these sentiments to the white parents we thought were our allies, they came up with so many excuses and justifications. They also excused police violence against black men to my son at a slumber party and told him Trump would help his culture out in the long run. I was not surprised at all, but was very hurt that even children aren’t immune to the hatred people harbor inside.

  5. QueenB says:

    “At least Matty D owns that”
    Yeah thats the only good thing we can say about him. At least he is honest about not having a clue. Or the Ruffalo type of answer “Excited we are having this conversation”.

  6. FLORC says:

    I’m waking up to it too! The extent can’t be known unless full experiences either. I got the concept. I got that it was there and worse in some places. I didn’t get what that actually meant. No shade. At all.

  7. JenB says:

    I think his comments were honest and thoughtful. Yes he *is* a privileged white male but that doesn’t mean all his comments should get the “another privileged white guy” *eyeroll* treatment. He is clearly on the right side and for things to actually change in this country we need people of all races to join together. Not everyone will be woke to the fullest extent but if they are evolving and opening their eyes, hearts, and minds that’s a good thing.

  8. Yeahright says:

    Doesn’t he have some black woman to speak over? He is dead to me. Typical white privileged hollywood male.

  9. Mermaid says:

    The SNL clip were all the white people were sitting around and said OMG a lot of Americans are racist (and sexist) really struck a cord with me. I’m white and my parents were Kennedy Democrats, and I was raised to think saying or thinking anything racist was trashy. I became a teacher and my school was a wonderfully warm place and everyone was all about equality for everyone and including all kids. I always thought most people felt this way. While Trump and his minions feel otherwise, I believe many in America are good people. We are better than him.

  10. Brittney B. says:

    Yeah, Matt, and a black woman TRIED to tell you.

    I guess you had to wait until a bunch of young white men showed you. That’s when you finally *got* it. Telling.

  11. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    It’s always been around.. racism. Always. Weaving it’s way in and out of communities across the planet for any race that isn’t white and I’ve been pissed off my entire life. I was raised near the border of Mexico (like five minutes) where whites were the minority, and most of them still manged to embarrass the f*ck out me with their stupidities. But as a kid, it was hard to do or say anything because I was punished or branded disobedient, incorrigible, blah, blah, blah. Even the church I was forced to attend made me ill. Human beings can truly dishonor their existence. Ugh. As a teen, if I refused to participate in something I felt was ridiculous or wrong, I had to spend copious amounts of time in the center of a frakking prayer circle so the thumpers could pray away my evil. Can you roll your eyes hard enough?!

  12. Karen says:

    He’s a Boston boy. Not shocking.

    I haven’t lived there for 10+ years but Boston area was then a pretty racist, homophobic and sexist place from my personal experience. Seeing the March against Hate in Boston makes me hope I met a lot of shitty people, or that a lot has changed since I left.

    • Amelie says:

      Yeah, both my Black roommates where I live in NYC have expressed the same sentiment about Boston being super racist when they visited. As a white person I was pretty blind to it but it actually is a pretty white city, almost jarringly so.

    • .... says:

      Isn’t Boston mostly irish? Perhaps they should read up on their own history in the country, that might humble them.

      • lightpurple says:

        Boston has been wavering back and forth over the line of being majority minority for the past two decades. The Irish have been moving out of the city and into suburbia for decades and now, while still the largest ethnic group. are less than 20% of the city’s population. The city has strong, growing Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Puerto Rican and Dominican populations. It is also has one of the largest LGBT populations in the country. Not denying that yes, there are racists and bigots, just pointing out the numbers.

  13. OG OhDear says:

    Guess having a black woman tell him to his face and black and Asian-Americans tell him through indirect channels that racism exists was not enough.

    What exactly had to happen for white people to consider something to be racist?! Was news of deaths of POC (mostly black) people by police not enough for him?

    • Anatha says:

      Agree wholeheartedly. He got told over and over again. People tried to explain and show it to him for years. He brushed it off.

      He’s not getting any cookies from me for this.

      • sanders says:

        I think for him racism is defined pretty narrowly as white supremacist nazis, the extreme versions he can distance himself from. These extreme types make the majority of white people feel better about themselves because at least they are not that bad. Matt can now go back to practicing institutionalized racism in his industry, with even more smug confidence because, hey, he’s not a nazi.
        I also find it rich that he talks about inclusiveness.

      • Anatha says:

        Yes. He will continue as before. Never question why there are so few POC behind the scenes in Hollywood. As he doesn’t know anyone that says “I hate POC” he doesn’t know racists and he doesn’t know racism.

      • Say Whaat? says:

        @sanders: You are so right about the narrow definitions of racism that the majority of white people indulge in. If “I’m not burning a cross in your yard” then I can’t possibly be a racist or be complicit in institutional racism. I can’t even engage with this nonsense anymore, it’s way too frustrating and draining.

    • deevia says:

      He will explain that there are not many POC in Hollywood because “they are not good enough” or “they need to try out more”, even a classic “Emma Stone is Asian enough”.

  14. Bitsy says:

    Never saw Moonlight, but all my black friends disliked it tremendously. Only my white friends saw the appeal. Now I feel I need to check it out.
    And what the eff…. he has to be in the movie to allow permitting? This man is president? The disgust reaches new levels everyday.

  15. .... says:

    I side eye him because of his friendship with kimmel.
    Kimmel who invited gabby sidibe to his wedding only to make her the butt of a joke.
    She was the only black person there which made it even worse.

  16. Samantha says:

    I expected to really like Moonlight but I didn’t, at all(apart from a couple of touching scenes). That’s true for Damon’s Manchester By the Sea as well, a couple of impressive scenes but underwhelming overall.

  17. Eveil says:

    Once someone shows you who they are, believe it. Should I believe in the actions of Matt Damon, priveleged white American male, or the burgeoning thoughts of a white man who’s only now just recognizing his white privelege when before he used his power to shut down voices of color? Until you give me proof via actions, Matt Damon, you’re just another privileged white male to me.

  18. Godwina says:

    I’m just… I dunno, folks. I’m white and not American but even I–so completely displaced–have always fucking known how bad it was in the US (and let’s be frank, everywhere). There have *always* been news stories about hate crimes and racist cops and inequality in hiring and residential schools and white Hollywood/white elite, even if the lingo has changed recently in the mainstream (semantics); the internet’s been around since the mid-90s and remember Usenet? There have always been assholes around me making racist comments (and gettin’ told), and the UN and UNESCO have been putting out stats my whole freaking life about discrimination. No one should be surprised or “waking up” in the US, Canada, Europe, wherever. It drives me bonkers. I can’t even with that degree of head-in-sandedness. It has to have been a deliberate looking away from the obvious–a coping mechanism, I don’t know. But you’ve *always* known. Unless you never read a newspaper or an internet comment, never talked to another human being and never stepped outside a chrome bubble full of lambs and flowers and honey and berries, YOU KNEW.

  19. monette says:

    Don’t bother Godwina. Maty D has been schooled big time by Clooney’s PR for this movie. His come to Jesus moment is not real. But I have to give it to the PR guy, he made Mat tell a nice story. I almost believe him.
    Until I don’t. Like you said: I am white and I live in Europe and I know. I’ve always known and cared.