The Shady Side Of Matt Damon

Ever since breaking into stardom and winning an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Good Will Hunting (1997), Matt Damon has had a firm grip on the Hollywood Good Guy title. However, within the last few years — and dating back even further for those with longer memories and attention spans — Damon has seemed more shady than sweet. Here are Damon's sketchiest moments.

He dumped Minnie Driver on national TV

Ouch! The first time Matt Damon's nice guy mold cracked was when he announced on The Oprah Winfrey Show that he was single... without letting his then-girlfriend, Minnie Driver, know that their relationship was over. She later told The Los Angeles Times of the incident, "It's unfortunate that Matt went on Oprah. It seemed like a good forum for him to announce to the world that we were no longer together, which I found fantastically inappropriate. Of course, he was busy declaring his love for me on David Letterman a month previously."

He made awkward, tone-deaf diversity comments on 'Project Greenlight'

In 2015, Damon came under fire for making, well, off-color comments about diversity in film.

During an episode of reality competition series Project Greenlight, in which Damon and Ben Affleck award aspiring filmmakers who battle it out to direct the same script, Damon told African American filmmaker Effie Brown that diversity doesn't matter behind a camera, only in front of it.

"When we're talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film, not in the casting of the show," Damon told Brown (via People), who replied, "Wow, okay." He later thanked Brown for "flagging the issue," but still missed the point, telling her, "If suddenly you change the rules of this competition at the 11th hour, it just seems like you would undermine what the competition is supposed to be about, which is about giving someone this job based entirely on merit and leaving all other factors out of it. It's just strictly a filmmaking competition."

He made excuses for his remarks

Damon apologized for the Greenlight gaffe, telling People, "I believe 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. 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."

Later, he made excuses in The Hollywood Reporter. "There was some context taken out," he said, adding that when he saw the episode's final cut he noticed why everyone was angry. "'Oh my God, I look like an a**hole,'" he recalled upon watching the show. "I thought it was a really insensitive thing to say."

He didn't stop there, lamenting to The New York Times, "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. But it's not something that I think anybody would ever say with a camera on... what I actually said was, 'Are we judging a contest or are we casting a reality show?' 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."

It wasn't his only diversity mishap

Damon was accused of racism when he starred in The Great Wall (2017), which takes place in medieval China. Critics of the film and its trailers accused filmmakers and Damon of white-washing the ancient Chinese myth on which the movie was based — and Damon didn't take the criticism well.

"It was a f***ing bummer. I had a few reactions," Damon told press. "I was surprised, because it was based on a teaser. It wasn't even a full trailer, let alone the movie. So to get those charges levied against you. What bummed me out actually, I read The Atlantic religiously and there was an article in The Atlantic, and I was like, 'Really guys?' To me, whitewashing I think of Chuck Connors when he played Geronimo. And, look there are far more nuanced versions of it and I do try to be sensitive to that. But Pedro [Pascal] called me and he goes, 'You know we're all guilty of whitewashing. We all know that only the Chinese defended the wall against the monsters when they attacked.' We react a little sarcastically because we were wounded by it. We do take that seriously. That's a serious thing to be [accused of]."

He insulted the gay community by accident

It seemed like Damon put his foot in his mouth a lot in 2015, this time in an interview with The Guardian about gay rumors that surfaced when he and bestie Affleck worked together on Good Will Hunting (1997).

"When Ben and I first came on the scene there were rumors that we were gay because it was two guys who wrote a script together... It's just like any piece of gossip and it put us in a weird position of having to answer, you know what I mean? Which was then really deeply offensive," he said.

"I don't want to, like [imply] it's some sort of disease — then it's like I'm throwing my friends under the bus. But at the time, I remember thinking and saying, Rupert Everett was openly gay and this guy — more handsome than anybody, a classically trained actor — it's tough to make the argument that he didn't take a hit for being out," he continued. "I think it must be really hard for actors to be out publicly. 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."

He apologized for that, too

Damon apologized for his comments about homosexuality in Hollywood during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

"I was talking about [that] actors are more effective when you know less about their personal lives, and was talking about it in the context of when Ben and I first started and people wrote all these articles, when Good Will Hunting (1997) came out, that we were gay, because it was two guys that wrote the script," he said. "I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they're a bit of a mystery, and somebody picked it up and said I'd said gay actors should get back in the closet. It's stupid, but, it's painful when things get said that you don't believe, and then it gets represented that that's what you believe, because nobody in the blogosphere, there's no real penalty for taking the ball and running with it."

He was accused of being insensitive to sexual assault survivors

During a December 2017 appearance on Popcorn With Peter Travers, Damon spoke out on the #MeToo movement and sexual misconduct in Hollywood — and he angered a lot of survivors and advocates.

"I think we're in this watershed moment and I think it's great and I think it's wonderful that women are feeling empowered to tell their stories, and it's totally necessary," he said. "I do believe that there is a spectrum of behavior... there's a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated, without question, but they shouldn't be conflated."

He added, "It's not everybody [committing misconduct]. There are so many great men and women in the movie business, so many great people... and these rotten, horrible apples are getting weeded out right now... That's progress. But again, when we go back to talking about our own growth and development as human beings, we have to get to a place where we're looking at people on one end of the spectrum and saying, 'Let's deal with this with some reflection and dialogue and reconciliation, and let's all grow together and move on.' And then I think we're making real progress."

He somewhat defended Louis C.K. ...

Damon came under fire in December 2017 after he seemingly defended comedian Louis C.K., who admitted to numerous incidents of sexual misconduct, because Damon liked the apology the disgraced funny man issued after his behavior was exposed.

"The Louis C.K. thing, I don't know all the details," Damon told Popcorn With Peter Travers. "I don't do deep dives on this, but I did see his statement, which was arresting to me. When he came out and said, 'I did this. I did these things. These women are all telling the truth.' And I just remember thinking, 'Well, that's the sign of somebody who — well, we can work with that.' What the Hell else are you supposed to do?" (The answer to that is, well, you can just not commit sexual misconduct of any kind in the first place.)

... and Al Franken

On Popcorn With Peter Travers, Damon also came to the defense of Democratic Sen. Al Franken, noting that he would have preferred if Franken was subject to an ethics committee hearing instead of being pressured to resign, because he believed Franken's alleged sexual misconduct to be not nearly as egregious as Harvey Weinstein's.

"When you see Al Franken taking a picture putting his hands on that woman's flak jacket and mugging for the camera ... that is just like a terrible joke, and it's not funny. It's wrong, and he shouldn't have done that," Damon said. "But when you talk about Harvey [Weinstein] and what he's accused of, there are no pictures of that. He knew he was up to no good. There's no witnesses, there's no pictures, there's no braggadocio — that stuff happened secretly, because it was criminal and he knew it. So they don't belong in the same category."

He may have hinted that women accusing Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck of misconduct were dishonest

In the same doozy of an interview on Popcorn With Peter Travers, Damon hinted that if he has friends that were accused of sexual misconduct that he knows the real story... and implied that he may know better than accusers. When Travers asked Damon if he'd work with someone accused of sexual misconduct, he stammered, "It depends on what the accusation is. It depends what's going on. If it's a friend of mine, I'm always talking to them. I know the real story if it's my friend. If it's a colleague ... I don't know ... I guess it depends on the situation and the allegation and how believable I think it is."

Damon never mentioned the Afflecks by name, but outlets and viewers were quick to point out that Damon is besties with the brothers, who've both been accused of various forms of sexual harassment — Casey settled sexual harassment suits with two women, one of whom accused of him of coming into her bed while she was asleep and touching her inappropriately and without her consent; Ben apologized earlier in 2017 for groping Hilarie Burton's breast and was accused of also touching other women inappropriately at a 2014 Golden Globes party.

He denied knowing about Harvey Weinstein's alleged misconduct ...

In an October 2017 interview with Deadline, Damon said, "I think a lot of actors have come out and said — everybody's saying, 'We all knew.' That's not true. This type of predation happens behind closed doors, and out of public view. If there was ever an event that I was at and Harvey was doing this kind of thing and I didn't see it, then I am so deeply sorry, because I would have stopped it. And I will peel my eyes back now, farther than I ever have, to look for this type of behavior. Because we know that it happens. I feel horrible for these women and it's wonderful they have this incredible courage and are standing up now."

... But later admitted he knew about at least one instance of harassment

About two weeks after telling Deadline he was totally in the dark about Weinstein's alleged sexual harassment and sexual assaults, Damon confessed on Good Morning America that he actually had heard Weinstein sexually harassed Gwyneth Paltrow previously. (Paltrow had accused Weinstein of propositioning her inappropriately and of telling other actresses that he'd been intimate with her in exchange for her career successes.)

"I knew he was a womanizer. You know, I wouldn't want to be married to the guy. But I'm not, you know — that's not my business really. But this level of criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought was going on. Absolutely not," Damon said. "I knew the story about Gwyneth from Ben [Affleck], because he was with her after Brad [Pitt]. I never talked to Gwyneth about it. Ben told me. But I knew that [Weinstein and Paltrow] had come to whatever agreement or understanding they had come to. She had handled it. And she was, you know, the First Lady of Miramax, and he treated her incredibly respectfully. Always."

Other stars called him out for his comments

Many celebrities, including Damon's own ex Minnie Driver, slammed him after his various comments on sexual misconduct.

"God God, SERIOUSLY?" Driver tweeted after the Popcorn With Peter Travers interview aired, adding, "Gosh it's so *interesting how men with all these opinions about women's differentiation between sexual misconduct, assault and rape reveal themselves to be utterly tone deaf and as a result, systemically part of the problem( *profoundly unsurprising)."

Outspoken #MeToo advocate Alyssa Milano also took to Twitter to blast Damon, writing, "Dear Matt Damon, It's the micro that makes the macro... We are in a 'culture of outrage' because the magnitude of rage is, in fact, overtly outrageous. And it is righteous ... I have been a victim of each component of the sexual assault spectrum of which you speak. They all hurt. And they are all connected to a patriarchy intertwined with normalized, accepted–even welcomed– misogyny... We are not outraged because someone grabbed our a**es in a picture. We are outraged because we were made to feel this was normal. We are outraged because we have been gaslighted. We are outraged because we were silenced for so long. There are different stages of cancer. Some more treatable than others. But it's still cancer. Sexual harassment, misconduct, assault and violence is a systemic disease. The tumor is being cut out right now with no anesthesia. Please send flowers. #MeToo."

He dissed J.Lo

In 2015, Damon hinted to The Hollywood Reporter that it was Jennifer Lopez's fault that his best buddy, Ben Affleck, had a bad reputation in the mid-to-late 2000s.

"There's nobody who's more misunderstood," he said. "Ten years ago, the public image of him could not have been farther apart from who he actually is. It was like he was being cast in a role, that he was a talentless kind of meathead, with his whole relationship with Jennifer Lopez. He just got cast as this person that he wasn't. It was just really painful. It was painful to be his friend, because it wasn't fair, you know? To my mind, nobody really got him at all. And through his work, he climbed from the bottom of the mountain all the way back up to the top and past where either of us had ever been."

Lopez was only one half of the infamous "Bennifer." It's a bit unfair to put all the blame for Affleck's poor reception on her, considering he actively chose to also appear in Gigli (2003).

He may have played a role in Ben Affleck's divorce

Damon is clearly outspoken about a lot of things, including buddy Ben Affleck's love life — and his disses don't stop at Bennifer 1.0. He also was rumored to play a role in Affleck's divorce from Jennifer Garner, of whom he reportedly was never a huge fan.

A source told Radar Online that Damon was helping Affleck during his separation and subsequent divorce filing from Garner, which actually upset Garner more and may have driven her and Affleck further apart. "She felt left out and alone, so she started to control things," a source said, adding, "It got nasty. She started making thinly veiled threats [to make Affleck] look bad ... She knew he was talking to his agent and Matt about their marriage, and she started to feel like she was being ganged up on by the boys."

Further, a source told OK! Magazine, "Matt believes Ben's marriage was in shambles way before the nanny. There was too much anger there... [Damon] wasn't pushing for Ben to end it, but he knows Ben will be happier with another woman." The insider added that Damon thought Garner and Affleck could have worked things out if Garner "just loosened up a bit."

Another sign that Damon wasn't too broken up about Ben's breakup? He may have chuckled about it at the 2016 Golden Globes.