How a ‘Deadline’ Story Obscured Matt Damon’s Support for the SAG-AFTRA Strike

As Hollywood’s actors joined screenwriters on strike in July 2023, the entertainment news outlet Deadline Hollywood faced online criticism for de-emphasizing actor Matt Damon’s expression of solidarity with union leadership.

The site posted a tweet featuring a clip of actor Matt Damon speaking to a reporter while at an event for his new movie Oppenheimer. The text alongside the clip reads, “Matt Damon at the #Oppenheimer premiere says that the Hollywood labor strikes will be brutal for actors and his own production company, which has shut down one of his company’s films.”

Fact Check

Claim: Deadline Hollywood obscured Matt Damon’s support for the SAG-AFTRA strike

Description: In July 2023, Deadline Hollywood was criticized for allegedly de-emphasizing actor Matt Damon’s expression of solidarity with SAG-AFTRA strike leaders in their reporting.

Rating: Mostly True

Rating Explanation: The outlet’s initial tweet and reporting did not fully cover Damon’s statements. However, they later issued a clarification and replaced their initial tweet with one providing the full context of Damon’s remarks.

A full transcript of Damon’s remarks, however, shows that besides describing the issues for not only actors like himself and colleague Ben Affleck and sister unions like the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), he is supportive of his union leaders:

Ben and I just started this little independent studio and you know, we’re three-and-a-half movies in. We’re shut down on one of them right now. We’re just waiting for everything to resolve. It’s brutal for our sister unions, it’s brutal for IATSE and it’s gonna be tough for the 160,000 actors. Nobody wants a work stoppage. But if our leadership is saying that the deal isn’t fair then we gotta hold strong til we get a deal that’s fair for working actors. It’s the difference between having healthcare and not for a lot of actors and we gotta do what’s right by them.

During another press junket, Damon told Associated Press:

What we would be striking for, if we strike, is unbelievably important. We got to protect the people who are kind of on the margins. Twenty-six thousand bucks a year is what you have to make to get your health insurance. And there are a lot of people who ― residual payments are what carry them across that threshold. If those residual payments dry up, so does their healthcare, and that’s absolutely unacceptable.

Damon’s statement of solidarity toward the strike is also left out of a Deadline article about Oppenheimer castmates leaving the event following the official strike declaration by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) union on July 13 2023. Instead, the headline singles out actress Emily Blunt in connection with the walkout:

Deadline failed to respond to a request for comment on the framing of their tweet. But other journalists and supporters of the strike pointed out the discrepancy on the platform, with some noting that the film aggregator account Discussing Film featured Damon’s statement on labor alongside the same clip:

At 8:15 p.m. EST on July 13 2023, Deadline published a clarification underneath its original tweet saying:

The original tweet does not give the full context of the conversation as Damon went on to voice his support of the strike saying,

“If our leadership is saying that the deal isn’t fair, then we gotta hold strong until we get a deal that’s fair for working actors. It’s the difference between having healthcare and not for a lot of actors and we gotta do what’s right by them.”

Later in the day, Deadline deleted that tweet and replaced it with one bearing the same clip, but this time featuring Damon’s remark supporting union leadership. It also read, “A previous version of this tweet was deleted for lacking Damon’s full statement in the copy. We regret the inaccuracy and apologize to Mr. Damon.”

The SAG-AFTRA strike, which will officially begin on July 14 2023, will dovetail with an ongoing strike by the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA). Like the actors’ group, the WGA is embroiled in a dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) over royalties and working conditions, including what SAG-AFTRA described as an attempt by studios to use “generative artificial intelligence” over working talent.

“This ‘groundbreaking’ AI proposal that they gave us yesterday, they proposed that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get one day’s pay, and their companies should own that scan, their image, their likeness and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity on any project they want, with no consent and no compensation,” said SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland at a press conference. “So if you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”

As the WGA strike has continued, various incidents have prompted more criticism toward the AMPTP and studio heads, ranging from Warner Bros. Discovery head David Zaslav being publicly heckled at Boston University in May 2023 to ongoing backlash against a statement fed to Deadline shortly before SAG-AFTRA joined the strike saying that the studios’ goal was to “break” the WGA:

“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline. Acknowledging the cold-as-ice approach, several other sources reiterated the statement. One insider called it “a cruel but necessary evil.”

A spokesperson for the AMPTP later disavowed the remark, saying: “These anonymous people are not speaking on behalf of the AMPTP or member companies, who are committed to reaching a deal and getting our industry back to work.”

Update 5:56 p.m. PST July 13 2023: Updated to reflect follow-up tweet from Deadline Hollywood. – ag
Update 9:12 p.m. PST July 13 2023: Updated with new tweet from Deadline Hollywood replacing their original post. – ag