UPDATE: The red carpet event for the New York premiere of Liam Neeson’s new film, Cold Pursuit, has been canceled, The New York Times reports. A spokesman for the film’s distributor, Lionsgate, confirmed the decision to call of the media-heavy event just hours before it was scheduled to take place Tuesday night. Neeson sparked controversy recently after he admitted to harboring a racist revenge fantasy nearly after a friend of his was raped.
Liam Neeson appeared on Good Morning America Tuesday to discuss his controversial statements about a racist revenge fantasy he harbored decades ago after a friend of his was raped. “I’m not a racist,” Neeson told GMA‘s Robin Roberts. “This was nearly 40 years ago.”
Neeson retold the story, which first appeared in an interview with The Independent after a journalist asked him how he tapped into roles centered around revenge (as in his upcoming film, Cold Pursuit). According to Neeson, after he learned that his friend’s attacker was black, he spent several nights walking around predominately black areas with a heavy stick, looking for conflict so that he could fight, and possibly kill.
On GMA, Neeson spoke about the moment he finally realized what he was doing, saying, “It really shocked me, this primal urge I had. It shocked me and it hurt me. I did seek help, I went to a priest… I had two really good friends that I talked to. And believe it or not, power walking, to get rid of this.”
Roberts pressed Neeson about the backlash to his Independent interview, noting one criticism in particular: that the actor apparently didn’t ask his friend for any other physical details about her attacker besides his race. Neeson clarified that he did ask about other physical attributes, and maintained that his reaction would’ve been the same had she been raped by anyone else.
“I was trying to show honor, to stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion,” he said. “I’m a fairly intelligent guy, and that’s why it kind of shocked me when I came down to earth after having these horrible feelings.”
Towards the end of the interview, Roberts asked Neeson if he saw a teachable moment in both the story itself, and his decision to divulge it on his own accord. “To talk, to open up, to talk about these things,” Neeson replied. “We all pretend we’re all kind of ‘politically correct.’ In this country – and same in my own country, too – you sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry.”