By Ethan Johnson
Liam Neeson is facing controversy after an interview published by The Independent on Monday revealed that he once wanted to kill a black man.
During the interview the famous actor told about how he once patrolled black neighborhoods hoping that someone would give him a reason to kill them. He explained that he felt this way because a friend of his had recently been raped by a black man. However, he followed up with saying that he was ashamed of the way he reacted and soon sought help. He said the he talked to a priest and went on power walks to get said help.
“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 black ****** would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could, kill him.” Neeson told his story to a reporter from The Independent alongside his co-star Tom Bateman in a 17 minute interview.
This interview led to many people either condemning Neeson or rushing to his defense. There are even users on Twitter calling for him to be removed from the upcoming Men in Black movie. However, not everyone is so quick to condemn Neeson. John Barnes, a former player for Liverpool FC, said that Neeson was brave for telling the truth and “deserved a medal.”
Neeson later said that the race of the attacker did not matter and that he would have reacted in a similar manner. In an interview on Good Morning America he defended himself saying, “If [the victim] had said an Irish, Scot, Brit, I know I would have felt the same way. I was trying to show honor and stand up for my dear friend in this medieval fashion. It shocked me when I realized the terrible things I said. Luckily, no violence occurred thanks be to God.”
Neeson told his story when he was asked how he tapped into revenge for his movies. The interview was for Neeson’s upcoming film Cold Pursuit. Cold Pursuit is about a snowplow driver seeking revenge after his son is killed. The Red Carpet event for the premiere of the movie was cancelled following this controversy. However, there are no plans to pull the movie from any theaters.
Liam Neeson has appeared in many movies surrounding the theme of vengeance. The most famous is perhaps the Taken franchise, in which Liam Neeson’s character searches for his kidnapped daughter. Neeson has also played in other movies including, Star Wars Episode I, The Lego Movie, Batman Begins, and Schindler’s List.
Liam Neeson has previously kissed the African American actress Viola Davis in the 2018 film Widows. This has led actress Michelle Rodriguez to spring to his defense. “...Liam Neeson is not a racist,” Rodriguez said on Wednesday.
Over the past few years many actors and other famous celebrities have been the center of controversies. Director James Gunn was fired from Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3 for pedophilic tweets that he posted many years ago. More recently, Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting the Oscars after the discovery of homophobic tweets.
There have also been actors and celebrities who suffered criminal charges such as Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein. Both of which were accused of sexual assault charges. The recent events have led to a surge of people searching to root out the skeletons within celebrities’ closets.
There have also been controversies on the political side with Ralph Northam, governor of Virginia facing backlash for potentially appearing in a school yearbook photo containing a man in blackface and another in the garb of the Ku Klux Klan.
There are a few things however that differ in Neeson’s case compared with the others. First, Neeson openly talked about this time in his life and even condemned the actions himself, admitting that he was wrong. Second, Neeson’s “actions” consist of one week of hateful thoughts and the intention to do something if given the opportunity. Neeson has provided no evidence that during that week actually harmed a black man or even committed any other type of crime.
Neesan said that he hoped his story would spark a larger debate about racism. It would appear that he has succeeded in that goal but probably not quite how he hoped to. Whether Neeson’s career will continue or if he committed career suicide is still in question.