Promoting your new movie is a slightly dull but necessary job for actors. The drill is usually that you sit in a hotel room chatting to a series of interviewers from various publications. It’s pretty boilerplate stuff: you say the movie is great, that your character was interesting to play, that the director is wonderful, that you got on famously with the other cast members and then you talk about that time your friend got raped and you went out looking for a black guy to murder. Wait, actually, uh, better skip that last one.
Unfortunately, Liam Neeson didn’t, and his confession about his racist revenge fantasies largely torpedoed Cold Pursuit‘s box office prospects and caused the actor to retreat into damage control. Now, two months on from the incident, he’s released a lengthy apology, saying the following:
“Over the last several weeks, I have reflected on and spoken to a variety of people who were hurt by my impulsive recounting of a brutal rape of a dear female friend nearly 40 years ago and my unacceptable thoughts and actions at that time in response to this crime. The horror of what happened to my friend ignited irrational thoughts that do not represent the person I am.
In trying to explain those feelings today, I missed the point and hurt many people at a time when language is so often weaponized and an entire community of innocent people are targeted in acts of rage. What I failed to realize is that this is not about justifying my anger all those years ago, it is also about the impact my words have today. I was wrong to do what I did. I recognize that, although the comments I made do not reflect, in any way, my true feelings nor me, they were hurtful and divisive. I profoundly apologize.”
I’m a big fan of Liam Neeson, so when I read his original comments I was confused and disappointed. The idea of him walking around looking for a black guy to attack as a way of finding some twisted justice for his friend was really depressing. Still, at least the point of his bizarre story was that he recognized that he was doing something very wrong, stopped doing it and now feels intensely ashamed of it. Plus, reading his unreserved apology, it at least appears that he’s understood why his comments pissed off so many people.
Here’s hoping that Neeson isn’t going to be persona non grata for too long. He’s got too much talent to be away from our screens, so while the last few months will undoubtedly be a smudge on his career, I don’t think they’ll define it or worse, end it. There are a ton of really bad guys out there, but Liam Neeson isn’t one of them.