PETA and arms manufacturers have found common cause: Hating Liam Neeson.
The actor became the latest Hollywood star to draw the ire of U.S. gun enthusiasts when he called the number of guns in the United States “a fucking disgrace.” In Dubai this month to promote his film Taken 3, the latest installment in the blockbuster franchise in which he plays a former CIA torturer who guns down ethnic stereotypes and nameless henchmen who’ve kidnapped members of his family, Neeson, 62, told Gulf News: “There’s too many fucking guns out there. Especially in America. I think the population is, like, 320 million? There’s over 300 million guns. Privately owned, in America. I think it’s a fucking disgrace. Every week now we’re picking up a newspaper and seeing, ‘Yet another few kids have been killed in schools.’”
Now a firearms company whose guns were used in the film has hit back. “PARA USA regrets its decision to provide firearms for use in the film Taken 3,” the company announced Friday. “While the film itself is entertaining, comments made by its Irish-born star during press junkets reflect a cultural and factual ignorance that undermines support of the Second Amendment and American liberties. We will no longer provide firearms for use in films starring Liam Neeson and ask that our friends and partners in Hollywood refrain from associating our brand and products with his projects. Further, we encourage our partners and friends in the firearms industry to do the same.”
No word yet on whether the boycott is expanding.
This isn’t Neeson’s first pro-gun control statement. In September, when he voiced his support for stricter regulation of firearms in the United States, the National Rifle Association issued a scathing response. “Another Hollywood hypocrite happy to make tens of millions on screen with a gun in his hands, but then advocates for disarming normal folks,” NRA News wrote on Facebook.
Neeson has worked with UNICEF to combat violence against children, citing Taken as his inspiration. He has stripped almost completely naked to raise money for breast cancer research. And he even appeared on Saturday Night Live to denounce Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea.
He has also enraged animal rights activists with his support for horse-drawn carriages in New York City.
“I am a little bit pissed off at our elected new mayor,” Neeson told Jon Stewart of Bill de Blasio in February 2014. “He wants to close this horse and carriage industry in New York.”
The actor was referring to de Blasio’s campaign pledge to replace “inhumane” carriage horses with “vintage tourist-friendly vehicles in parks.” Neeson, whose close friend is a horse and carriage owner, also wrote an angry letter to the mayor, saying he was “appalled to learn of your intent to obliterate one of the most deep rooted icons of our city!”
Critics say horse-drawn carriage rides in Central Park inflict excessive harm on the animals. Neeson has long been a supporter of the carriage-horse industry; his appearance with Stewart wasn’t even the first time he had talked about it on The Daily Show.
PETA is not thrilled. “Liam Neeson…has PETA wondering if one of his horses might have kicked him in the head,” the organization blogged in 2009. “What else could explain his bizarre opinions about New York City’s carriage horses and what wonderful lives he thinks they have?…Oh, Liam, maybe you’re right, let me ponder this for a moment … It does seem like horses would prefer to endure the freezing cold and the panicky booms, noisy traffic, and exhaust fumes of the city over living in a lush pasture.”
PETA has labeled Neeson a “horse foe” and gleefully posted photos of horse lovers swarming his home. In June, the group released a video in which comedian Bill Maher declares his solidarity with horses and dismisses Neeson’s support for the horse drawn carriage industry:
The 2012 Neeson drama The Grey also attracted the ire of animal rights advocates, who said it depicted wolves as insatiable murderers.
So PETA and the NRA agree that Liam Neeson is a threat. It’s a uniting issue for two organizations that agree on little else.
Through his publicist, Neeson declined a request for comment about his views on guns and horses.