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Matt Damon on the 2016 Oscar Diversity Controversy: ‘It’s Shameful and Embarrassing’

Matt Damon
Matt Damon attends the Manchester By The Sea premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival at Eccles Center Theatre on January 23, 2016 in Park City, Utah.C Flanigan/FilmMagic

Matt Damon shared his take on the ongoing 2016 Oscar boycott while speaking to Us Weekly and other reporters at the Sundance Film Festival this past weekend.

"You know, it's shameful and embarrassing," Damon, 45, told Us on the red carpet of the Manchester By the Sea premiere at Eccles Theater in Park City, Utah. "There's two years in a row that there are no people of color nominated. That's insane."

Related: PHOTOS: Oscar Snubs: Most Overlooked Films, Stars and Shocking Losses in Academy Awards History

Damon was nominated on Thursday, January 14, for a best actor Academy Award for his performance in The Martian, along with other white stars across all acting categories. The lack of minority actor nominees soon sparked the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite across the internet, and eventually, A-listers like Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith announced their decision to boycott the awards show.

As a member of the Academy himself, Damon praised Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs for taking positive action amid the scandal. "It's a strong first step but that is all that it is, it’s a first step," he told Us of the Board of Governors' proposal to double minority membership by 2020. "This is going to be a very long road. … I was very happy that they did that."

Damon (already an Oscar winner for his screenplay of Good Will Hunting) elaborated to the Associated Press that the film business has "much, much, much more" to do before reaching these goals. "We're talking about huge systemic injustices around race and gender that are a lot bigger than the Oscars," the actor told the AP. "They're massive issues in our industry and in our country."

Related: PHOTOS: Oscars 2016 Best Picture Nominations: See the Complete List

Damon made his comments several months after he was embroiled in another scandal related to diversity. Last September, the Bourne Identity hunk found himself in hot water after repeatedly interrupting one of the black female producers from his reality series, Project Greenlight, during a discussion about diversity.

He then spoke over his producer Effie Brown, who attempted to explain to her all-white team to be cautious about how they depict a black prostitute on the show to make sure it wasn't racist. "When we're talking about diversity, you do it in the casting of the film," Damon said to Brown at the time. "Not in the casting of the show.”

He subsequently apologized in a statement. "I am sorry that they offended some people, but, at the very least, I am happy that they started a conversation," Damon said. "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."

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