EXCLUSIVE (UPDATED 4:47PM): The daily bombshells involving Harvey Weinstein are involving widening circles of Hollywood people, and hasty mis-characterizations are inevitable. Matt Damon, who won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting and made numerous other movies for Weinstein companies including The Talented Mr. Ripley, was tarred along with Russell Crowe in a The Wrap article by Sharon Waxman. The former New York Times reporter recalled in 2004 when she tried to file a story about Weinstein’s sexual misdeeds, only to see it neutered by editors. Waxman mentioned getting calls from Damon and Crowe at Weinstein’s behest, to vouch for Fabrizio Lombardo, who ran Miramax’s Italian office. And who, Waxman alleged, procured women for Weinstein.
(On Monday, NYT executive editor Dean Baquet wrote in response to Waxman’s claims that “it is unimaginable to me that The Times killed a story because of pressure from Harvey Weinstein, who was and is an advertiser”; that “the top two editors at the time, Bill Keller and Jill Abramson, say they have no recollection of being pressured over Ms. Waxman’s story”; and that Waxman’s “direct editor, Jonathan Landman, suggested she didn’t have it nailed.”)
Damon has since been singled out for scorn and called an enabler in tweets from the likes of Jessica Chastain and Rose McGowan. He has a much different recollection of events, and the father of four daughters has a strong opinion of the heinous misdeeds by Weinstein characterized in the New York Times and the New Yorker. He wanted the opportunity to convey his side of that story. Here it is.
DEADLINE: It was reported that you and Russell Crowe were conscripted by Harvey Weinstein to call Sharon Waxman in an effort to derail a New York Times piece similar to the ones we are reading now.
DAMON: My recollection was that it was about a one minute phone call. Harvey had called me and said, they’re writing a story about Fabrizio, who I knew from The Talented Mr. Ripley. He has organized our premiere in Italy and so I knew him in a professional capacity and I’d had dinner at his house. 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. 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. We vouch for each other, all the time, and it didn’t even make her article. Whether it didn’t jibe with her storyline…it was an incomplete rendering of someone that I was giving but I had perfectly professional experiences with Fabrizio and I didn’t mind telling her that.
I’m sure I mentioned to her that I didn’t know anything about the rest of her piece, because I didn’t. And I still don’t know anything about that and Fabrizio. My experience with him was all above board and that’s what I told her.
DEADLINE: After The New York Times piece last week, Harvey reportedly went to Hollywood power brokers urging them to defend him in messages that would be conveyed to the board of directors deciding if he should be fired. No one did, apparently. It would be easy to misinterpret your overture in a similar way. When Harvey asked you to do that, was there any mention that Sharon Waxman was reporting a piece on the indiscretions we are reading about now?
DAMON: No, I just remember it being a negative piece, a hit job on Fabrizio, was what Harvey was saying. Basically, that he had no professional experience. Harvey said, you worked with him. Can you tell her that he was a professional and you had a good experience, and that was it. I didn’t mind doing it, because that was all true.
DEADLINE: You’ve since been criticized in Tweets from Jessica Chastain and others and been dragged into this maelstrom.
DAMON: Look, even before I was famous, I didn’t abide this kind of behavior. But now, as the father of four daughters, this is the kind of sexual predation that keeps me up at night. This is the great fear for all of us. You have a daughter, you know…
DAMON: We know this stuff goes on in the world. 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 predation happens behind closed doors, and out of public view. 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, farther 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.
We can all feel this change that’s happening, which is necessary and overdue. Men are a huge part of that change, and we have to be vigilant and we have to help protect and call this stuff out because we have our sisters and our daughters and our mothers. This kind of stuff can’t happen. This morning, I just feel absolutely sick to my stomach.
DEADLINE: This has been a difficult past few days…
DAMON: This would have been a difficult past couple of days even if my name hadn’t been dragged into it. 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. 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.
DEADLINE: Waxman also mentioned Russell Crowe…
DAMON: I can only assume it was the same kind of thing. Russell worked over there too and must have known Fabrizio in a professional capacity because he was running Miramax Italy. He must have done a movie for Harvey around that time and must have a similar kind of conversation with her. Because nothing he said made it into that article, either. It was just a mention of our names.
DEADLINE: Just to reiterate, Waxman didn’t tell you the point of her story?
DAMON: She didn’t. She called us to apologize about this thing coming out, and she claimed she was in her car with her kids when I talked to her. It was a 30 second conversation.
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.
Late Tuesday, Jessica Chastain who worked with Damon defended the actor with this re-tweet of this story: