On Monday, the Independent published an interview with Liam Neeson where the Cold Pursuit star admitted that he wanted to kill a “black bastard” after a female friend of his was raped. “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 [Neeson gestures air quotes with his fingers] ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know?” he said. “So that I could… kill him.” Neeson expressed surprise that he admitted this during what should have been a casual chat about Cold Pursuit, and the internet was equally taken aback by his comments.
Speaking to Good Morning America on Tuesday, Neeson responded to the backlash and clarified his words:
“We were doing a press junket and the topic of our film is revenge. It’s a dark comedy, but its basis is revenge. The lady journalist asked me how I tapped into that. I remembered an incident nearly 40 years ago where a dear friend of mine was brutally raped. I was out of the country. When she came back, she told me about this and she handled the situation herself with incredible bravery, I have to say that. I had never felt this feeling before, which was a primal urge to lash out.”
Neeson said his urge to “deliberately” go to “black areas in the city looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence” shocked him, “this primal urge I had. It shocked me. It hurt me. I did seek help. I went to a priest… I am not racist. This was nearly 40 years ago.” When asked whether he would have felt the same compulsion if the attacker was white, he replied, “I would have had the same effect. I was trying to show honor, to stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion.” Neeson added, “I did want to lash out because my friend was brutally raped and I was defending her honor. It was a learning curve.”