As victims continue to come forward in the on-going sexual assault allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, Matt Damon is emphatically denying he tried to stop a 2004 New York Times expose on Weinstein’s sexual misconduct.
“For the record, I would never, ever, ever try to kill a story like that. I just wouldn’t do that. It’s not something I would do, for anybody,” he tells Deadline in an attempt to clarify his side of the story.
Damon and Russell Crowe were named in an article about Sharon Waxman, a former NYT reporter who alleges her 2004 story about Weinstein’s history of alleged sexual abuse was shut down by editors over pressure from Miramax and the producer’s A-list pals. She claims both Damon and Crowe reached out to her to vouch for Miramax Italy head Fabrizio Lombardo whom she claims “procured women” at Weinstein’s behest.
Damon has since been singled out in tweets by his “The Martian” co-star Jessica Chastain and actress Rose McGowan for being an enabler, complicit in Weinstein’s abuse.
On Tuesday, Damon recalled his version of events with Deadline in the hope of setting the record straight about his conversation with Weinstein and Waxman over her Lombardo article over a decade ago.
“Harvey said Sharon Waxman is writing a story about Fabrizio and it’s really negative. Can you just call and tell her what your experience with Fabrizio was. So I did, and that’s what I said to her. It didn’t even make the piece that she wrote,” Damon says, explaining his contact with Lombardo while filming “The Talented Mr. Ripley” in Italy in 1999. “As I recall, her piece just said that Russell and I had called and relayed our experience with Fabrizio. That was the extent of it and so I was very surprised to see it come back. I was never conscripted to do anything.” He adds actors like himself are asked to “vouch” for colleagues “all the time” and didn’t see this request as anything out of the ordinary.
He continues, adding he never witnessed any kind of sexual misconduct from Weinstein over the course of the six films they did together, denying claims that “everyone” behind-the-scenes knew about Weinstwin’s actions. The actor says he would have put a stop to any harassment or abuse if he had witnessed it.
“I did five or six movies with Harvey. I never saw this. I think a lot of actors have come out and said, everybody’s saying we all knew. That’s not true. This type of predication happens behind closed doors, and out of public view,” he explains. “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, father 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.”
Damon, 47, says he doesn’t condone the alleged actions of Weinstein or Lombardo. “Even before I was famous, I didn’t abide this kind of behaviour. But now, as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predication that keeps me up at night. This is the great fear for all of us,” he says.
Since allegations against Weinstein surfaced last week, more women continue to come forward, including Rosanna Arquette and Angelina Jolie, and Damon’s “Talented Mr. Ripley” co-star, Gwyneth Paltrow. For Damon, it’s these victims that should be the focus of the conversation – not him.
“I am not the story here. The story is these women and what happened to them. So if I’m experiencing this discomfort, it hardly bears mention,” he says, calling on men to step up and speak out against sexual harassment and abuse in order to “protect” women. “There are some real victims here and they are being incredibly brave. Hopefully, them going through this experience right now will help them heal. They are who we all should be thinking about.”
Despite the criticism, Damon’s “The Martian” co-star Jessica Chastain is stepping forward to defend him, believing that Damon “was manipulated. “I’ve spent time with him on ‘The Martian’ and he’s a really good guy.”
Damon’s friend and frequent collaborator, Ben Affleck, also released a statement on Tuesday condemning Weinstein.