Belfast Telegraph

Liam Neeson Cold Pursuit premiere in New York called off amid racism row

By Laura Harding

The premiere of Liam Neeson's newest film has been abruptly cancelled amid fallout from the actor's comments about decades-old thoughts he had about killing a black person.

Organisers of the New York premiere of Cold Pursuit informed reporters of the cancellation yesterday afternoon, a couple of hours before it was supposed to start.

The cancellation came hours after Neeson appeared on Good Morning America to address his comments, telling interviewer Robin Roberts that he is not a racist.

The Ballymena-born actor was quoted in an interview by The Independent on Monday describing his violent thoughts about killing a black person nearly 40 years ago after learning that someone close to him had been raped.

The actor told Roberts that discussion about these things is needed because bigotry and racism exist.

Discussing his controversial remarks, he said: "I had never felt this feeling before, which was a primal urge to lash out."

He added: "After that there were some nights I went out deliberately into black areas in the city, looking to be set upon so that I could unleash physical violence.

"I did it four, maybe four or five times, until I caught myself and 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."

Neeson explained that he had grown up during the Troubles, where he witnessed revenge on a regular basis.

He said: "I'm not racist, this was nearly 40 years ago, but because I was brought up in the north of Ireland, I was brought up in the Troubles in the Sixties, Seventies and early Eighties.

"There was a war going on in the north of Ireland and I had acquaintances who were involved in the Troubles.

"The bigotry, one Catholic would be killed, the next day a Protestant would be killed, one Catholic pub would be bombed and a Protestant pub would be bombed.

"I grew up surrounded by that. But I was never part of it."

Neeson said he would have had the same reaction if his friend, who has since died, had told him she was raped by a white man.

He added: "If she had said Irish or Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian, I know it would have had the same effect. I was trying to show honour to and stand up for my dear friend in this terrible medieval fashion." Former England footballer John Barnes said Neeson deserves a medal for his honesty.

Barnes, who suffered racist abuse during his career, said Neeson's feelings were the result of a negative portrayal of black people in the media.

He told Sky News: "I believe that Liam Neeson deserves a medal and I'll tell you why.

"I've listened to the whole transcript. Liam Neeson was talking about his film, revenge, and he's talking about how revenge doesn't do anyone any good.

"He mentions that growing up in Northern Ireland, he understands how destructive that can be."

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