Liam Neeson ‘Profoundly Apologizes’ After Sparking Racism Controversy

The actor calls his thoughts and actions "unacceptable."
Liam Neeson attends the premiere for "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" at Alice Tully Hall during the 56th New York Film Festival, in New York2018 NYFF - "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs" Premiere, New York, USA - 04 Oct 2018
Liam Neeson
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Nearly two months after sparking backlash for saying he’d once sought revenge for a friend’s rape — “hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something” — Liam Neeson has “profoundly” apologized for his “unacceptable thoughts and actions.”

The actor revealed the story while promoting “Cold Pursuit,” leading to to the red-carpet portion of that film’s world premiere being canceled. Several of Neeson’s collaborators came to his defense in the aftermath — including “Widows” co-star Michelle Rodriguez and “Cold Pursuit” director Hans Petter Moland — but his comments were met with fierce criticism and accusations of racism.

His full statement:

“Over the last several weeks, I have reflected on and spoken to a variety of people who were hurt by my impulsive recounting of a brutal rape of a dear female friend nearly 40 years ago and my unacceptable thoughts and actions at that time in response to this crime. The horror of what happened to my friend ignited irrational thoughts that do not represent the person I am. In trying to explain those feelings today, I missed the point and hurt many people at a time when language is so often weaponized and an entire community of innocent people are targeted in acts of rage. What I failed to realize is that this is not about justifying my anger all those years ago, it is also about the impact my words have today. I was wrong to do what I did. I recognize that, although the comments I made do not reflect, in any way, my true feelings nor me, they were hurtful and divisive. I profoundly apologize.”

In his original statement, the Oscar nominee said he “went up and down areas with a cosh [club], hoping I’d be approached by somebody — I’m ashamed to say that — and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.” He did this, he said, because his friend told him her rapist was a black man.

Neeson will next appear in “Men in Black: International,” which arrives in theaters on June 14.

Daily Headlines
Daily Headlines covering Film, TV and more.

By subscribing, I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PMC Logo
IndieWire is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2023 IndieWire Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.