Do you know much about Daniel Day-Lewis’ personal life? When was the last time you saw paparazzi photos of Mr. Day-Lewis stumbling out of a hot L.A. nightspot? What’s the cutesy nickname – a la “Brangelina” – that members of the press have bestowed upon Daniel and his wife?
I don’t know what the late Peter O’Toole thought about abortion. Until his untimely passing, I had no idea that Phillip Seymour Hoffman was a heroin addict. He, like O’Toole and Day-Lewis, gave me no opportunity to pry into his personal life. My relationship to such performers was strictly professional. They perform and entertain and we watch and enjoy.
I like it that way. Most of the good ones on their side of this cultural compact do as well.
I am not disparaging celebrities with a public platform who choose to use it as a means to advance causes they believe in, but when it comes to actors, we would do well to remember that we’re talking about a group of human beings that pretend to be other people for a living.
Matt Damon is as big as it gets in Hollywood. But in the past month, Damon has taken serious flak for a handful of remarks that do not warrant the type and amount of hell-fire he has unintentionally brought down upon his finely cropped head.
First, there was the “super racist” stuff he said during an episode of his HBO reality show Project Greenlight. For those looking for a racist under every rock, Mr. Damon played right into their Twitter-happy hands by daring to hold a different creative opinion from that of a black female producer (whom Damon invited and paid to be a part of his television program).
This week, as the nationwide release date for his sure-to-be-blockbuster film The Martian approaches, Matt Damon is back in the headlines for “attacking” gay actors everywhere. And by “attacking,” I mean “positing a personal theory that actors can do a better job of entertaining audiences on-screen if they keep their off-screen lives private.”
To this, Kevin Fallon of The Daily Beast roared, “Shut Up, Matt Damon!”
Today in Matt Damon Mansplains It All, the Martian star suggests gay actors shouldn’t publicly come out of the closet if they want to be successful. We suggest he stop talking.
And the perpetually aggrieved beat goes on.
When one actually reads The Guardian interview in question – in which Damon sounds off on controversial, homophobic things like loving to be at home with his wife and four daughters – it becomes clear that some of the most outraged voices in the media may have reached their fevered pitch thanks to social media contagion rather than careful, journalistic inquiry.
“I think it must be really hard for actors to be out publicly,” he continues. “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.”
Harvey Milk must be turning over in his progressive grave right now! How dare Matt Damon lump gay actors in with all other actors when sharing an opinion about how the business he has been successful in for twenty years actually works!
Apparently the great crime is not “attacking” gay and lesbian Americans, but failing to mention how gay and lesbian Americans are better than the rest of us any time the topic of homosexuality comes up.
This is a heavy burden for celebrities to carry, especially while in the midst of giving one of 10,000 interviews in the same day as part of a promotional rollout for a new film or album.
The amount of conjecture and politically correct scolding that now passes for entertainment journalism is embarrassing and says much more about the aggrieved journalists than it does about the celebrity in question.
If Matt Damon’s mild comments prompt such extreme reactions, what kind of outrage is left for real crises, such as Syrian genocide or the execution of gay people in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia?
Matt Damon is right: actors would be free to pursue their craft in a more serious way if they did not have to deal with the insanity surrounding the coverage of their personal lives. His point was not that gay people should “stay in the closet.” His implicit point was the same one actor Tom Hardy made during a recent interview when asked about his sexual preference:
“What on earth are you on about?”
Translation: An actor’s sex life has nothing to do with the films he or she makes. The less we know about it, the better.