Actor issues statement to Variety amid outrage over interview in which he says he recently ‘retired the f-slur’
Matt Damon attends the premiere of ‘Stillwater’ at Rose Theatre at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Monday in New York. Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP
The Guardian- Richard Luscombe
Matt Damon has reportedly denied using a well-known homophobic slur “in his personal life”, after being widely criticized for revealing in a recent interview that he “retired” the term after his daughter told him it was unacceptable.
The Oscar-winning actor had told the Sunday Times that the word “was commonly used when I was a kid, with a different application”.
He said his daughter had taken him to task after he used the word in a joke “months ago”. “She went to her room and wrote a very long, beautiful treatise on how that word is dangerous. I said, ‘I retire the f-slur!’ I understood,” he said in the interview.
Damon, who in 2017 apologized for saying sexual assault was “a spectrum of behavior” after a similar outcry, has faced criticism from LGBTQ+ activists over the Times interview.
Travon Free, the bisexual comedian, actor and Oscar-winning director, said in a tweet: “So Matt Damon just figured out ‘months ago’, by way of a ‘treatise’ from a child, that he’s not supposed to say the word f*ggot. Months ago. Months ago.”
The actor later gave a statement to Variety, claiming he had never used the slur in his “personal life” and saying the the Sunday Times interview “led many to assume the worst”.
“I explained that that word was used constantly and casually and was even a line of dialogue in a movie of mine as recently as 2003,” Damon told Variety. “[My daughter] in turn expressed incredulity that there could ever have been a time where that word was used unthinkingly. To my admiration and pride, she was extremely articulate about the extent to which that word would have been painful to someone in the LGBTQ+ community regardless of how culturally normalized it was.”
He added: “I have never called anyone ‘f****t’ in my personal life and this conversation with my daughter was not a personal awakening. I do not use slurs of any kind.”
Damon, 50, who won an Academy Award in 1998 for Good Will Hunting, and his wife, Luciana, have four daughters ranging in age from 10 to 23. It is not clear from the Times interview which of them wrote him the letter.
“Matt Damon reveals he JUST recently stopped using the word […] as a slur after his daughter forced his hand…like what?” O’Keefe wrote.
Billy Eichner, the actor, comedian and producer, tweeted: “I want to know what word Matt Damon has replaced f****t with.”
The episode was trending on Twitter on Monday morning, with numerous other users mocking or criticizing the actor for his comments.
Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ rights charity in the UK, describes the word as a homophobic slur and among the many “terms of abuse” still commonly used.
It is not the first time that Damon has prompted concerns over his views on homosexuality. In a 2015 interview in the Guardian, he said he thought gay actors were better performers if they kept quiet about their private lives, comments he later claimed were “misconstrued,” during an appearance on the US television show Ellen.
“I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they’re a mystery. Right?” he told the host, Ellen DeGeneres.
“Somebody picked it up and said I said gay actors should get back in the closet. It’s stupid, but it is painful when things get said that you don’t believe. And then it gets represented that that’s what you believe.”
The actor is currently promoting the movie Stillwater, released at the weekend to mixed reviews. Damon plays an American father attempting to secure his daughter’s release from incarceration in France, where she has been convicted of murdering her friend.
The Guardian’s film critic Peter Bradshaw gave it one star out of five, saying that Damon was “woefully miscast” and that the movie was “a muddled, tonally misjudged, badly acted, uncertainly directed and frankly dubious drama, something that falls into the so-bad-it’s-bad bracket.”
Amanda Knox, an American convicted and later acquitted of murdering the British student Meredith Kercher while both were studying in Italy in 2007, has claimed the movie’s writer and director, Tom McCathy, had “rip[ped] off my story without my consent at the expense of my reputation”.