During an interview with Clemence Michallon for The Independent while promoting his new movie Cold Pursuit, actor Liam Neeson detailed having once sought racist revenge for a friend who had been sexually assaulted. He revealed that he walked around Northern Ireland armed with a weapon, intending to kill to a black man, after his friend accused someone of rape. He found out about the incident upon returning from a trip overseas, and asked the friend if “…did she know who it was? No. What color were they? She said it was a black person.” Afterwards, he exclaimed how he walked around areas armed with a cosh, for possibly a week, waiting for a “black bastard” to “come out of a pub and have a go at [him]”, wanting to be provoked to justify causing harm.
He stated that he felt his actions were “horrible” and that it took him about a week or so to process his anger over the incident, claiming that he used the story as an example of understanding the need for revenge. When news of interview broke, backlash ensued due to his racially charged comments. People noted that he only asked about the “color” of the attacker, which caused accusations of racism. Some came to Neeson’s defense exclaiming that it should be noted that he admitted to these past feelings and expressed regret.
He attempted to explain his actions in an interview with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, claiming “I’m not a racist” and that “had it been a Irish, or a Scot, or a Brit, or a Lithuanian” he would’ve had the same reaction. He said that he “went into predominantly black areas of the city looking to be set upon” after hearing news of his friend’s assault. He expressed regret during the interview, even claiming he released his frustration about the incident through “power walking” for two hours everyday and by seeing a priest in confession. He said that he hopes the incident opens up more conversation about race and not just “scratching the surface” but understanding that people still harbor these prejudices. Due to the growing backlash, the red carpet premiere in New York City for ‘Cold Pursuit’ has been canceled.