The decade's most triggering comedy
After sparking an intense backlash by revealing he once had private thoughts about killing a black man after a loved one had been raped nearly 40 years ago, actor Liam Neeson has hit the morning shows to clarify that he is not a racist.
In a viral interview with The Independent, the 66-year-old actor revealed dark thoughts he had once held in the past following the rape of a loved one.
“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,” yet another 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.”
Neeson continued: “I went out deliberately into black areas in the city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence. I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself, and it really shocked me — this primal urge I had. It shocked me and it hurt me.”
Neeson revealed that he overcame his rage with help from good friends and a priest. He also clarified that his “death wish” fantasy happened nearly 40 years ago and was influenced in part by the warfare happening in Northern Ireland at the time.
“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.”
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.”
Admitting he would have done violence unto someone had he not grappled with his rage in a healthy way, Neeson said that people need to learn to talk openly about what they experience in the dark corners of their mind.
“Talk, open up. Talk about these things,” he said. “We all pretend we’re all politically correct. In this country, sometimes you just scratch the surface and you discover this racism, this bigotry, and it’s there,” he said.
“Good Morning America” host Robin Roberts commended Neeson for admitting his past inner conflicts rather than having it revealed via third-party. Simultaneously, she asked him to understand the pain a black man might feel upon hearing what he said.
“We have to own up … This wasn’t discovered by somebody. You admitted this. This wasn’t a ‘gotcha,’ so I give you credit there,” Roberts. “You have to acknowledge the hurt of an innocent black man who could have been killed or hurt … You have to also understand the pain of a black person hearing what you said.”
“At the time, even though it was nearly 40 years ago, I didn’t think of it,” Neeson said. “All those things surprised me. It was this primal hatred … It shook me … Violence breeds violence. Bigotry breeds bigotry.”