Liam Neeson has been under fire for controversial comments he made in an interview with the Independent about the rage he felt after a close friend told him she had been raped by a black man. The revelation led him to roam the streets “hoping some black b*****d would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”
The “Taken” star, 66, clarified his remarks during an appearance Tuesday on “Good Morning America”, insisting he’s “not racist.”
“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 remembered an incident nearly 40 years ago where a very dear friend of mine was brutally raped,” Neeson told interviewer Robin Roberts, putting his earlier comments in context.
“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,” he continued.
“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,” Neeson explained.
“It hurt me. I did seek help. I went to my priest and had two very good friends I spoke to,” he said, insisting, “I’m not racist. This was nearly 40 years ago.”
When Roberts asked whether he would have had the same reaction “with a white man,” Neeson responded, “If she’d have said a Brit, a Scot, a Lithuanian I know I it would have had the same affect. I was trying to show honour, to stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion.”
He added: “I’m a fairly intelligent guy and that’s why it shocked me when I came down to earth after having these horrible feelings. Luckily no violence occurred, thanks be to God.”
At the time, he said, “I did want to lash out because my friend was brutally raped and I felt I was defending her honour. And I admit that. It’s a learning curve.”
For Neeson, the experience taught him some unpleasant things about himself that he was able to confront.
“We all pretend we’re PC,” he said. “Sometimes you scratch the surface and discover this racism and bigotry. When we were shooting ‘Schindler’s List’ in Poland and hearing remarks from drivers taking us to the set they were making anti-Jewish comments.”
Reaction on Twitter was swift, with many feeling Neeson’s attempt at damage control only served to make things worse.