The actor Liam Neeson has sparked many debates in the past 24 hours, after comments he made in a recent interview made headlines.
The 66-year-old was being interviewed by The Independent, promoting his new film Cold Pursuit, when he told the story of a friend of his who was apparently raped.
Neeson confessed the incident happened years ago, and admitted he is now ‘ashamed’ of the way he acted, describing his actions as being ‘awful behaviour’.
Speaking to The Independent, the actor said:
She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way. But my immediate reaction was I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour 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 b*stard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.
It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that.
And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid […]
It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the f*ck are you doing’, you know?
I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing.
His comments, of course, sparked a huge reaction among readers and fans, and the actor has since appeared on Good Morning America to further explain his remarks.
Emphasising that he was ‘not racist’, Neeson spoke about his reaction to the horrible ordeal his friend went through, and the ‘primal urge’ he felt to seek revenge.
He said, via Evening Standard:
The topic of a film is a dark comedy, but its base is revenge, and the lady journalist was asking me how I tap into that and I remember an incident nearly 40 years ago where a dear friend of mine was brutally raped.
She told me and she handled the situation incredibly bravely but I had never felt this feeling before which was a primal urge to lash out.
I asked her ‘did you know the person?’ It was a man. No. His race? She said he was a black man, I thought OK.
Then after that I went out deliberately into black areas in this city looking to be set upon so I could unleash physical violence and I did it maybe four or five times until I caught myself on and it really shocked me, this primal urge I had.
And it hurt me. I did seek help. I went to my priest and had two very good friends I spoke to.
Neeson was also asked whether he would have had the same reaction ‘with a white man’. To which he responded:
If she’d have said a Brit, a Scot, a Lithuanian, I would have reacted the same. I was trying to show honour and stand up for my friend in this medieval fashion.
I’m a fairly intelligent guy and that’s why it shocked me. I did want to lash out because my friend was brutally raped. It’s a learning curve.
The actor added that, while the comments have caused controversy, he hoped it would spark a positive discussion and make more people think before they speak about such issues.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.