Liam Neeson, the 66-year-old movie star best known for his roles in violent revenge-themed action movies such as Taken, Taken 2, and Taken 3, found his name trending on Twitter Monday morning after confessing to a real-life revenge fantasy of his own.
During an otherwise routine promotional interview in support of his new revenge thriller Cold Pursuit, Neeson suddenly confessed to a disturbing incident in his past that left him desiring real-life revenge after learning that a friend had suffered a sexual assault.
But according to the Independent newspaper, in the interview, Neeson said that he did not fantasize about seeking revenge on the person who raped his friend, but instead, he fantasized about murdering any black person at all.
Neeson said in the interview that the female friend told him that she had been raped at some point in her past and that the assailant was "a black man."
"My immediate reaction was... did she know who it was? No. What color were they? She said it was a black person," Neeson said in the interview, according to the Independent. "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 b*****d' would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him."
As Independent columnist Kuba Shand-Baptiste wrote, Neeson's confession was "chilling" not because he sought revenge on the person who attacked his friend, but because Neeson "zeroed in" on "the blackness of the perpetrator...regardless of whether he had the right person or not."
Twitter users reacted immediately, and in similar fashion — though for some the effect that the statements would have on Neeson's career were the source of Twitter jokes.As Huffington Post reporter Julia Craven noted on her Twitter account, Neeson's reaction - of which he now says he was "ashamed" - was racist because his first responses were to "1. Ask the race of the assailant, which tells us his racism was deep rooted before the assault. 2. Roam through (presumably) black neighborhoods in hopes of provoking a black person so that he could murder them."
Alicia Adejobi, an editor at the Metro.uk news sites, said she would now "cancel" Neeson.Novara Media editor Ash Sarkar noted on Twitter that in addition to its racism, Neeson's story showed that he subscribed to the sexist belief that "when a woman is sexually violated, it's a man who is left truly wounded."
The Independent said that Neeson's publicist "declined" to comment on the actor's statements.