Brow Beat

Liam Neeson Chose a Junket Interview to Confess Past Thoughts of Racist Murder. Here’s How That’s Going.

Man in black suit and black dress shirt poses for the camera.
Liam Neeson in 2018
Mike Coppola/Getty Images

During a press junket for his new film Cold Pursuit, in which a a grieving father seeks revenge against the men who are responsible for the death of his son, Neeson shared his own real-life revenge story, which has received considerable backlash. (The movie’s Tuesday night premiere has been canceled, although its release this weekend is still proceeding as planned.)

Seated next to co-star Tom Bateman, Neeson revealed to French journalist Clemence Michallon that nearly 40 years ago, a close female friend of his was raped. Neeson detailed the experience during an interview for an article that was published on the Independent Feb. 4.

When Neeson asked his friend to describe the perpetrator, she told him the alleged crime was committed by a black man. In an attempt to avenge his friend, for a week the actor said that he went to black neighborhoods in Ireland with a weapon in hand, looking to kill any black man who approached him. After a week, he came to his senses and stopped, ashamed of his actions and thoughts.

What caused him to share this story?
While actors often give the same answers over and over again during press junkets, Neeson went off script when Michallon, asked him, “Why does this character [kill] instead of grieving like most people would do?” Michallon then appeared on Good Morning Britain to give further context for the interview.

Are we sure things weren’t taken out of context? I’d like to hear the quote myself.
Here’s the full audio:

Wow, that was difficult to listen to. What has the response been?
The response has been mixed. While many people both online and in the media have been outraged, some have acknowledged that the story that Neeson is referencing happened many years ago, and argued that the actor seems to have learned from the experience. There are also some who feel his current-day use of “black bastard” is insensitive. Also, while most have been understanding of Neeson’s anger, his desire to hurt any black person, rather than the person responsible, has been a main topic of conversation.

One of the most prominent critics to speak on the controversy so far is British morning host Piers Morgan, who condemned Neeson.

The women of The View attempted to tackle the controversy, naturally coming to many different conclusions.

Bringing in another perspective, and praising Neeson for his honesty, was retired British soccer player John Barnes, who argued that it’s more helpful to society for people like Neeson to be honest about their own racism than it is to hide these feelings.

There have been a lot of responses. Has Liam Neeson apologized?
Neeson has not explicitly apologized. He is, however, using the bigger appearances scheduled on his press tour to clarify and further explain the story. While speaking with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, Neeson said, “I’m not racist,” condemning his past thoughts and saying that within a week of the original incident, he was clear-headed again and disgusted by his desires. The actor also gave context to the environment he grew up in, explaining that he grew up in Northern Ireland during the turbulent period known as the Troubles, when violence and hate crimes were essentially a daily occurrence.

It doesn’t seem like he’s shying away from the subject.
No, he’s not. However, Neeson did participate in what can been seen as a transparent PR stunt during an appearance on Live with Ryan and Kelly, electing to hug exclusively black people in the audience who can be heard through the actor’s mic, praising him for past roles and revealing what fans they are.

That’s … unfortunate.
Yes it is.

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