Liam Neeson has revealed a shocking, never before heard story in a new interview, saying that he was "hoping" to kill a black man following the rape of one of his friends years ago.
The Oscar-nominated actor told the story, unprompted, in a recent interview while promoting his latest movie, Cold Pursuit, a revenge thriller for which he has become known for over the course of the last decade. Neeson explained that a friend of his was raped when he was out of the country. Upon returning to the U.K., he learned of the situation. Neeson had the following to say in regards to what happened afterward.
"I'll tell you a story. This is true. 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 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 [making 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 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."
A cosh is a thick heavy stick, which has at least some importance as it relates to this story. Reaction online to the story has been wide-ranging, from shock to outrage. Some have called it a prime example of toxic masculinity, and many have called out the racist nature of his actions. The 66-year-old star of movies such as Taken and Schindler's List did express regret for his actions, but did not acknowledge them as being racist.
"It's awful. But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, 'What the f*** are you doing,' you know?... I come from a society, I grew up in Northern Ireland in the Troubles, and, you know, I knew a couple of guys that died on hunger strike, and I had acquaintances who were very caught up in the Troubles, and I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing, and Northern Ireland's proof of that. All this stuff that's happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand."
In the actual recorded interview, Liam Neeson's co-star Tom Bateman can be heard saying "Holy s***" in the background in response to the story. While this shocking tale wasn't promoted by the interviewer, Neeson was offering this up as something of an intense way to explain, through real-life experience, Cold Pursuit, which centers on Neeson getting revenge on drug dealers who kill his son.
"I think audience members live to see [that violence on screen]. They can kind of live vicariously through it. People say, 'Yeah but violence in films makes people want to go out and kill people.' I don't believe that at all. I think the average moviegoer thinks, 'Yeah, punch him. Punch him.' And they get a satisfaction out of seeing somebody else enact it, and they leave the theatre and they feel satiated in some way."
Whatever prompted the actor to tell this story now, it could very well have a lasting effect on his career going forward. While some encouraged people to take in the full interview, one Twitter user, writer Alicia Adejobi, declared that it's time to "cancel Liam Neeson." We've collected other social media responses below. This news was originally reported by The Independent.
Would Liam Neeson have that same energy if the attacker was white?— Reece 🇯🇲 (@reecestweetz) February 4, 2019
“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."— Hannah Al-Othman (@HannahAlOthman) February 4, 2019
Not how old were they? How tall were they? You just asked what colour were they? I don't care how sorry you are, Liam Neeson, that is disgusting. https://t.co/sCDVTBCBIx
The funniest thing about the Liam Neeson article is that with he still doesn’t realise what he was doing was racist lmao he just thinks revenge isn’t worth it. He still thinks killing any black person would be revenge for a specific black man raping his friend 😂— The Gay Tupac (@NeferKira) February 4, 2019
Also important to read full Liam Neeson interview not just headline— Eleni (@elenimacx) February 4, 2019
This is what white, toxic masculinity looks like.— Jennifer Scheurle (@Gaohmee) February 4, 2019
I am extremely wary of men who are more outraged about the pain of a rape survivor than the victim themselves, especially when reverting to violence.
I’m glad Neeson sees his mistake at least. https://t.co/fj3A5tjEsO
That Liam Neeson interview is just so saddening (and yes, still racist). It reinforces the idea that people of colour, and especially black men, are collectively responsible for the misdeeds of one. And that when a woman is sexually violated, it's a man who is left truly wounded.— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) February 4, 2019
Never thought I'd have to cancel Liam Neeson but... here goes. How he ever thought he could say this without consequence is mind-boggling https://t.co/9YahdMBILq— Alicia Adejobi (@aliciaadejobi) February 4, 2019
REPORTER: So was it fun working with so many celebrities on this film?— Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) February 4, 2019
LIAM NEESON: I did 9/11
So Liam Neeson’s response to a loved one being raped was to:— rocket juju (@juliacraven) February 4, 2019
1. Ask the race of the assailant, which tells us his racism was deep rooted before the assault.
2. Roam through (presumably) black neighborhoods in hopes of provoking a black person so that he could murder them. pic.twitter.com/5C4PBWVSWY