The COVID-19 pandemic hit close to home for Matt Damon. The Stillwater star's 12-year-old daughter, Gia, tested positive for the virus over the summer — though Damon, who is father to four kids with wife Luciana, told GQ she only had a low fever and was grateful it wasn't worse.
"I mean, we've been about as lucky as you can be throughout this pandemic," Damon explained.
The actor had a few eye-opening moments during lockdown. At the start of the pandemic, Damon and his family hunkered down in Ireland.
"We had about as good a lockdown as we could have ever hoped," he reflected.
"There was like a quiet," Damon added. "There weren't scripts being sent, or work to do, or people who needed answers for anything. It was just: Take the kids to school and then go train, or go for a walk. It was very simple. That part of it was eye-opening, going forward, in terms of how I'd like to spend my days."
The topic ultimately shifted to another eye-opening moment for Damon.
The actor managed to make it decades before really putting his foot in his mouth, but that changed in December 2017, shortly after the downfall of his Good Will Hunting producer, Harvey Weinstein. Damon was criticized for how he talked about sexual misconduct, stating, in part, there's "a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation. Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn't be conflated."
Damon was not accustomed to the backlash, telling GQ "it was painful."
"I mean, we all come into the world and we're a f****** hot mess, do you know what I mean?" added. "And we make mistakes. And even in doing our best we make terrible mistakes."
Damon continued, "It's hard to take punches for things…the person that they were saying, 'He's tone-deaf, and he's…' you know, I don't like that guy either. So it's hard to hear those things about yourself."
The actor got advice from an unnamed female friend who told him to "be quiet for at least a month and just listen."
"And that's what I did," he explained. "My friend's advice was great in the sense of not getting in a defensive crouch — because that was my inclination, and you can't hear anything in a defensive crouch — and as painful as it is, the only way forward is to really try to understand what you’ve done and really reflect on it," he recalled.
"There were articles written about things that I said, about centering a man in a sexual assault situation. And I go, 'Wow, I did do that. I thought of it entirely from his perspective.' Like, that's where my head went," he admitted. "And, 'I didn’t think about these women'.… Because I'm trying to relate to the situation, and I relate to the person who has more in common with me. But in so doing, I'm doing damage not only to the people in that scenario but to anybody who's ever been in that scenario and who feels like, 'Oh, here I go again, getting overlooked.' So it changed the way that I look at some of these things. It makes me hopefully more aware."
Damon apologized publicly a month later and then went away. His father died just days before his controversial comments were published, so his wife suggested they go to Australia to end "this f****** horrible year."
"It was like, 'Let's go to the other side of the world, just our family, and let's make memories with the kids. Let's go on an adventure,'" he said, noting the media firestorm solidified their choice. "I think that we would have gone either way. But certainly I was like: Nobody needs to hear from me for another year at least."
Damon managed to make it a few more years before another media firestorm ensued.
In an attempt to share a story about personal growth, Damon sparked outrage last month when talking about retiring the f-slur. Damon ultimately issued a statement clarifying he's never used "slurs of any kind," adding, "I stand with the LGBTQ+ community." He declined to talk to GQ any further about the issue.