Matt Damon wants everyone to know he does not believe out gay actors should go back into the closet, nor did he ever say so.
That’s one of the things the actor wanted to make clear while taping an interview with Ellen DeGeneres on her syndicated talk show Monday. DeGeneres — who invited Damon on her show to promote his new film, The Martian — asked him to address how his comments to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, which she said were “twisted around.” He says they were taken wildly out of context.
“I was just trying to say actors are more effective when they’re a mystery,” said Damon. “And someone picked it up and said I said ‘Gay actors should get back in the closet.’ Which is like, it’s stupid.” The audience joined the actor in laughing at that misinterpretation; DeGeneres stayed cool and paid rapt attention.
"It's painful when things get said that you don't believe," Damon told DeGeneres. "You know what I mean? And then it gets represented that that's what you believe. Because in the blogosphere, there's no penalty for just taking the ball and running with it."
As The Advocate reported, Damon told The Guardian that out actors "take a hit for being out," specifically mentioning Rupert Everett, whose career sputtered after breaking out in the 1990s with My Best Friend's Wedding. Though he seems sympathetic toward Everett, Damon thinks an aura of mystery makes actors more believable.
“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.”
The controversy may have received more play than usual as it came on the heels of another contentious statement from Damon, for which he halfheartedly apologized.
As Mashable reported, producer Effie Brown, a black woman, made a comment on the season premiere of Project Greenlight that casting diversity was an important factor in choosing a director for the HBO show's project; Damon shot back that picking the best candidate for the sake of the show — and the film they would be making within it — was the top priority.
DeGeneres ended the brief conversation about the controversy by appearing to accept Damon’s clarification, adding, "And it shocks me that you and Ben are not gay," she added as a final tension-breaker. "But if you want to deny it and keep the mystery in your marriage ... "
Watch the clip from Ellen, below.