Viggo Mortensen has apologized for using the N-word during a Q&A session on Wednesday following a screening of his new movie “Green Book”.
The Oscar-nominated actor, who was seated next to the film’s director Peter Farrelly and co-star Mahershala Ali, said the slur when talking about racism in America, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“For instance, no one says N— anymore,” he said, according to Dick Schulz, a freelance director who attended the Arclight Hollywood screening and later tweeted about the incident.
“It was all anyone was talking about when we left the theatre,” Schulz told THR. “I was hearing everybody passing by me going up the stairs going, ‘That was crazy! Why did he say that? You cannot say that!’ And it’s sad because the movie is great.”
Mortensen stars in “Green Book” as New York bouncer Tony Lip, who is hired by legendary Jamaican-American jazz pianist Don Shirley, played by Ali, to be his driver during a tour of the Deep South in the 1960s.
“In making the point that many people casually used the ‘N’ word at the time in which the movie’s story takes place, in 1962, I used the full word,” the 60-year-old movie star said in a statement to THR.
“Although my intention was to speak strongly against racism, I have no right to even imagine the hurt that is caused by hearing that word in any context, especially from a white man. I do not use the word in private or in public. I am very sorry that I did use the full word last night, and will not utter it again.”
He added: “One of the reasons I accepted the challenge of working on Peter Farrelly’s movie Green Book was to expose ignorance and prejudice in the hope that our movie’s story might help in some way to change people’s views and feelings regarding racial issues. It is a beautiful, profound movie story that I am very proud to be a part of.”
Mortensen’s co-star Mahershala Ali acknowledged the former’s “hurtful” remarks. He took Mortensen’s use of the “n-word” very seriously but forgave him. “However well-intended or intellectual the conversation may have been, it wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the N-word,” Ali said in a statement published by Variety.
“He has made it clear to me that he’s aware of this, and apologized profusely immediately following the Q&A with Elvis Mitchell,” Ali continued. “Knowing his intention was to express that removing the N-word from your vocabulary doesn’t necessarily disqualify a person as a racist or participating in actions or thoughts that are bigoted, I can accept and embrace his apology.”
In describing the event, Schulz explained that Mortensen was responding to a question directed at another panellist and that he quickly lost control of his point. “Viggo just started talking, and it got away from him quickly,” Schulz said.
“And that’s when he went, ‘I’m gonna go off on a tangent here, but it’s important, and I don’t like saying the word, but, for instance, people don’t say’ — and then he said the N-word in its entirety — ‘anymore,’ and you could just feel the room immediately tense up.”