The pushback to actor Liam Neeson has continued to grow ever since he admitted to once having had dark thoughts about killing a black man in retaliation for a loved one's rape. Now, Fox News reports that people on social media are demanding he be digitally removed from the upcoming "Men In Black: International" movie, a reboot of the Will Smith/Tommy Lee Jones action-comedy from 1997.
"I really hope it’s not too late to digitally erase that racist f--- Liam Neeson from the new Men In Black movie," one Twitter user wrote.
"Was really excited for Men in Black: International with @chrishemsworth & @TessaThompson_x. Was 1 of my most anticapated [sic] films for 2019. Hated his casting before the horrifying controversy, but now really hope it’s not too late to digitally erase racist f--- Liam Neeson from it," another said.
The upcoming "Men In Black" film will feature Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth in the starring roles; Liam Neeson will be playing a high-ranking agent in the same vein as Rip Torn's character from the 1997 original. Calls for the Irish actor's banishment from the hit franchise erupted after an interview he gave with The Independent went viral, during which he opened up about some dark demons he wrestled with 40 years ago upon learning of a loved one's rape.
"She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way," Neeson said. "I asked, did she know who it was? No. What color were they? She said it was a black person. I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody — I’m ashamed to say that — and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could [pause] kill him."
Speaking with "Good Morning America" on Tuesday in response to the outrage on social media, Neeson said his comments about past violent thoughts were in response to questions on how he tapped into the primal rage of his current role in "Cold Pursuit," a revenge-rush action film in the same vein as "Taken."
"We were doing a press junket and the topic of our film was revenge," Neeson said. "The lady journalist was asking, 'How do you tap into that?,' and I remembered an incident nearly 40 years ago when a friend of mine was brutally raped. I was out of the country and when I came back she told me about this ... I had never felt this feeling before, which was a primal urge to lash out."
"I'm not racist," Neeson said. "This was nearly 40 years ago. I was brought up in Northern Ireland ... there was a war going on, and I had acquaintances who were involved in the troubles, in the bigotry ... I grew up surrounded by that. I was part of it."
Yet the social media backlash has continued unabated.
"You can literally hear Liam Neeson evaporating from all the upcoming Men in Black International marketing," wrote another Twitter user.
"@MenInBlack boycott Men In Black the gutless coward Liam Neeson said he was walking around looking to kill an innocent black man who had nothing to do with his personal issues he's a gutless coward and a racist bigot boycott Men in Black," said another.
During the interview with "Good Morning America," Neeson said that had the perpetrator of rape been any other race, he would have had the same thoughts about killing a member of that ethnic community.
"If she said [the rapist was] Irish, a Scot, a Lithuanian, [it] would have had the same effect," he said. "I was trying to show honor and stand up for my dear friend in this horrible medieval fashion ... Thankfully no violence occurred ever."