No red carpet for Neeson after revenge remarks

Liam Neeson says he is not a racist. Photo: Reuters
Liam Neeson says he is not a racist. Photo: Reuters

The New York celebrity red carpet event for actor Liam Neeson's new film was cancelled in the wake of an interview in which Neeson said he wanted to kill a black man in response to the rape of a friend who said her attacker was black.

Movie studio Lionsgate declined to comment but a source familiar with the matter said that Tuesday's red carpet, where movie stars pose for photos and speak with reporters, was inappropriate.

The United States premiere for Cold Pursuit, in which Neeson plays a man seeking revenge for his son's killers, went ahead.

Responding to the backlash his comments had drawn, the 66-year-old Irish star told the US television network ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) on Tuesday that "I'm not a racist."

Neeson said he had learned that society needed to have a larger discussion to end racism and bigotry.

On Monday, Neeson told the British newspaper The Independent that he related to characters in his movies such as Taken who seek revenge when someone close to them is hurt.

He said a female friend told him decades ago that she had been raped by a man who was black.

Neeson told the paper he had spent "maybe a week" walking near pubs with a heavy stick and "hoping some 'black b****rd' would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could ... kill him."

The Independent said Neeson put air quotes around the term "black b****rd." The newspaper posted audio from the interview on its website.

On Tuesday, Neeson told GMA that he had felt a "primal urge to lash out" at the time.

"I went out deliberately into black areas in the city, looking to be set upon," he said. "It shocked me and it hurt me ... I did seek help, I went to a priest."

Neeson said no violence occurred. He said he would have been looking for a white man if his friend had identified her attacker as white.

"It was horrible, horrible when I think back, that I did that," Neeson said on GMA. "It's awful, but I did learn a lesson from it." 

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