Liam Neeson has spoken after sharing a story about feeling the urge to commit a racially-motivated murder when one of his friends was raped in the past – denying allegations of racism.
The Taken star, who is set to appear in action movie Cold Pursuit, explained how violent impulses led to him walking through the streets with a weapon after a close friend was attacked by a black man.
“I remember shooting Schindler’s List, and hearing remarks from drivers who were taking us to the set, thinking to myself, ‘Am I hearing this right, this guy is making anti Jewish comments to me, a guy playing Schindler?’ Sometimes we’d see swastikas on walls painted by people who knew we were going to the set.”
The response was prompted following Neeson’s answer to a question, asked by The Independent about how “his latest character turns to anger”. Neeson used the shocking scenario to clarify his answer.
“There’s something primal – God forbid you’ve ever had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions,” Neeson explained.
The Oscar nominee said that he was abroad when the attack occurred, but his relative had dealt with it “in the most extraordinary way.”
After becoming consumed by anger, Neeson says he decided to wreak revenge by himself.
“My immediate reaction was… I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person,” explained Neeson.
“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 bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”
He added: “It took me a week, maybe a week and a half, to go through that. She would say, ‘Where are you going?’ and I would say, ‘I’m just going out for a walk.’ You know? ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘No no, nothing’s wrong.'”
Neeson further admitted that it was “horrible, horrible” to make the racist assumption and that he was ashamed of his seemingly violent impulse.
“It’s awful, but I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the f**k are you doing,’ you know?” he explained.
Neeson also revealed that growing during The Troubles in Northern Ireland had shown him the dangers of attempting to seek justice.
“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.”
Neeson has now spoken out in response to the backlash.
“I’m not racist, this was 40 years ago,” he said on Good Morning America. ”I was brought up in the north of Ireland. The Troubles. The ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. There was a war going on in the north of Ireland. I had acquaintances who were involved in the trouble. The bigotry. One Catholic would be killed, the next day a protestant would be killed. I grew up surrounded by that, but I was never surrounded by it.”
He added: “We all pretend we’re all politically correct. But sometimes you just scratch the service and you discover this racism and bigotry, and it’s there.”
Defending the star, Barnes said that “this is what society has shown him, that black people do, Muslims do – this is what society has wrongly shown him, this is what the media have wrongly portrayed to him”.
He added: “He went on to say he was ashamed and horrified by the way he felt. He’s not ashamed and horrified at wanting to commit the act of revenge, he’s ashamed and horrified because that is what he thought about all black people.”
Barnes also said that Neeson was being “pilloried” and subjected to a “witch-hunt.”