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Matt Damon: 'Shameful and embarrassing' that no minorities nominated for Oscars two years in a row

By
Annie Martin
Matt Damon at the Golden Globe Awards on January 10. The actor is nominated for The Martian at the 88th Academy Awards. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Matt Damon at the Golden Globe Awards on January 10. The actor is nominated for "The Martian" at the 88th Academy Awards. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Matt Damon and Steve McQueen are among the latest stars to address the Oscar controversy.

The 45-year-old American actor and 46-year-old English director joined the debate nearly a week after actress Jada Pinkett Smith announced she will boycott the 2016 Academy Awards due to a lack of diversity in the nominations.

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"It was shameful and embarassing that there were two years in a row without a single actor of color nominated," Damon told Bustle at the Sundance Film Festival premiere of Manchester by the Sea on Saturday.

"It's a strong first step," he added of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' pledge to diversify the organization. "This is gonna be a very long road. But I'm glad there's at least a first step."

Damon, who won Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting in 1997, is nominated for Best Actor for The Martian at this year's ceremony. Will Smith was expected to be nominated for Concussion, but all 20 nominees in the major acting categories ended up being white.

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"I'm hoping in 12 months or so we can look back and say this was a watershed moment, and thank God we put that right," McQueen, whose film 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture in 2013, told the Guardian in an interview published Sunday.

"One could talk about percentages of certain people who are Academy members and the demographics and so forth, but the real issue is movies being made," the director opined. "Decisions being made by heads of studios, TV companies and cable companies about what is and is not being made."

"This is an important issue. It's an us issue," he added. "This is not about black, not about white, this is about us, how we want to improve our environment and our society, and who we are. So, let's get on with it. Let's fix this. It's ridiculous!"

Will Smith announced he will support wife Jada Pinkett Smith's boycott last week, telling Good Morning America, "It was her call to action, for herself, and for me and for our family to be part of the solution."

The 88th Academy Awards will air Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.

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