Liam Neeson has revealed that he considered carrying out a racist murder years ago after someone close to him was allegedly raped by a black man.
The shocking admission comes in what should have been a pretty dull press-junket interview with The Independent to promote the Northern Irish actor’s latest film, Cold Pursuit. Neeson said he’d never admitted his impulse to anyone before, and added that he’s now deeply ashamed of his reaction to the woman’s rape.
“I’ll tell you a story. This is true,” the actor can be heard saying to journalist Clémence Michallon in the taped interview, explaining that the woman—who he didn’t name—told him that she had been raped by a black man while he was overseas.
“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way,” he went on. “But my immediate reaction was, I asked, did she know who it was? No. What color 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 [making 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.”
The Taken star went on to say that it took him a week or two to get over his impulse. He appeared to realize during the interview how shocking his admission was. He said that it “was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that and I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”
His co-star, Tom Bateman, sitting beside him during the interview, can be heard saying: “Holy shit.”
“It’s awful,” Neeson went on. “But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing,’ you know?… I come from a society—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.”
He added: “All this stuff that’s happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand.”
The admission appeared to be a very extreme way of explaining Cold Pursuit, in which the son of his character is killed by a drug gang. “I think audience members live to see [that violence on screen],” Neeson said. “They can kind of live vicariously through it. People say, ‘Yeah but violence in films makes people want to go out and kill people.’ I don’t believe that at all.
“I think the average moviegoer thinks, ‘Yeah, punch him. Punch him.’ And they get a satisfaction out of seeing somebody else enact it, and they leave the theatre and they feel satiated in some way.”
Neeson refused to elaborate on the story when asked if he would like to explain further by the same journalist a few days after the interview.