In a recent interview promoting his new film Cold Pursuit, Liam Neeson brought up a conversation that is making his fans see red.
In a press junket with The Independent, Neeson talks about finding common ground with his character seeking revenge. He relays a story about a time he sought just that.
After returning from a trip overseas, he found out an unnamed friend had been raped:
“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 bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could… kill him.”
As you can imagine, this news has not been well received.
For everyone getting caught up on this Liam Neeson story pic.twitter.com/VF5RUpBgC8— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) February 4, 2019
Interviewer: So how were you able to get inside the head of the character you play in your new movie The Guy Who Fucked Up An Interview As Badly As You Could Possibly Fuck Up An Interview?— who pixelates the boatmen? (@pixelatedboat) February 5, 2019
Liam Neeson: Well,
I once lost a friendship with someone because they got mad at me for disliking the way the female characters were portrayed in “Taken,” so no, I am not surprised by this Liam Neeson thing— rhea butcher (@RheaButcher) February 5, 2019
I wasn’t going to see the new Liam Neeson movie because it looked awful, but now I’m not going to see it because I’m a hero.— Mike Ginn (@shutupmikeginn) February 5, 2019
To his credit, Neeson is rightfully ashamed of the incident.
He withholds details of the victim, and says after a week he snapped to his senses:
“But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing,’ you know?”
“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.”
Clémence Michallon, the journalist who conducted the interview, explained the process for carefully editing and publishing the discussion.
We could have written it a thousand different ways, and in fact, we did.— Clémence Michallon (@Clemence_Mcl) February 4, 2019
Michallon even interviewed an expert in social neuroscience to provide more context for Neeson’s actions.
I encourage you to really read Dr Lasana Harris's comments in the piece. Lasana is a wonderful academic whose work in social neuroscience explores how our brains come to think the way they do.— Clémence Michallon (@Clemence_Mcl) February 4, 2019
Though, we could have maybe done without this last bit.
He said, or else – and he switched to his other voice, his actor voice, the voice he uses in THAT Taken phone scene, and he was clearly joking – "I will find you." https://t.co/TRWz6E0jGu— Clémence Michallon (@Clemence_Mcl) February 4, 2019
It’s a lot to unpack. On one hand, it’s great that Neeson realized why he was wrong. If we’ve learned one thing the last several years, it’s that these feelings can spread and grow.
On the other hand, this scenario offers no other good moments for the actor. He completely ignores how the victim of the assault feels and indulges in what will make him feel better. He doesn’t ask questions that can narrow down who it was, just the color of the skin of the attacker.
And what would have happened if he had found exactly what he was looking for? This story was told to show how he connects to someone who wants revenge, not necessarily how to resolve it.
Mr. Neeson, can you please just… not?
Words are so powerful.— Elizabeth Pears (@BizPears) February 4, 2019
I've never seen a more inappropriate use of the words "Then again..." pic.twitter.com/rYjoRD9lry
“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
"I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing" - sure if you want to read "and I unequivocally denounce my past racism" into that because it's suits your agenda then fine, but we shouldn't have to "read between the lines"— Hannah Al-Othman (@HannahAlOthman) February 4, 2019
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
Neeson had been in hot water about a year ago after he made comments about the #MeToo movement.
While he approved of victims telling their stories, he also questioned if it was making a “bit of a witch hunt.”
“There’s some people, famous people, being suddenly accused of touching some girl’s knee or something and suddenly they’re being dropped from their program.”
Clearly, he hasn’t learned his lesson just yet.