Belfast Telegraph

Booker winner Banville defends ‘demonised’ Liam Neeson amid racism storm

Liam Neeson on ABC’s Good Morning America
Liam Neeson on ABC’s Good Morning America
John Banville

By Sherna Noah

Author John Banville has defended Liam Neeson over his controversial rape revenge comments.

The Booker Prize-winning writer said the Hollywood star was being "demonised". Banville, who publishes his crime novels under the pen name Benjamin Black, said Neeson was a "decent man" who was "ashamed" of his thoughts.

"Does no one listen any more?" the Irish writer asked.

"Liam Neeson was delivering a cautionary tale.

"His point was that we must resist our primitive urges - and we all have primitive urges - and that his week, long ago, of plotting revenge for a specific outrage by doing violence to a person at random was something that he was and is ashamed of.

"Liam Neeson is a decent man and does not deserve to be demonised in this way."

The star sparked outrage by admitting that he once had violent thoughts about killing a black person.

The Northern Irish actor (66) is set to play fictional private detective Philip Marlowe in a film being adapted from best-selling writer Banville's novel The Black-Eyed Blonde.

Banville, whose book The Sea won the Man Booker Prize in 2005, was commissioned by the Raymond Chandler Estate to pen the Marlowe novel.

The book is a sequel to Chandler's stories featuring the cult detective and is being adapted into a movie called Marlowe.

Banville's comments came after a red carpet event for the New York premiere of Neeson's latest revenge thriller, Cold Pursuit, was abruptly cancelled just hours before it was scheduled to begin.

The film opens in the US on Friday and later in the UK.

Earlier, Neeson appeared on ABC TV's Good Morning America to address his comments, insisting that he was not a racist.

He said he was compelled by a "primal" and "medieval" desire for revenge when he had violent thoughts about killing a black person after a woman close to him was raped.

The star provoked widespread criticism after he told The Independent he had walked the streets armed with a cosh, hoping he would be approached by someone "so that I could kill him" after his friend said she was attacked by a black man.

Discussing his behaviour on Good Morning America, he said: "It really shocked me, this primal urge ... it was shocking.

"It shocked me and it hurt me ... I did seek help - I went to a priest."

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