Liam Neeson has come under fire after admitting that he once harboured violent thoughts about killing a black person in revenge after someone close to him was raped.
The Taken actor, 66, revealed in an interview to promote his new film Cold Pursuit, that he had walked the streets armed with a weapon hoping he would be approached by someone “so that I could kill him”.
Discussing how his character turns to anger, Neeson told the Independent: “There’s something primal – God forbid you’ve ever had a member of your family hurt under criminal conditions. I’ll tell you a story. This is true.”
He said the rape happened some time ago and said of his friend: “She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way.
“But my immediate reaction was… I asked, did she know who it was? 'No'.
"What colour were they? She said it was a black person.
“I went up and down areas with a cosh [a stick or bar used as a weapon], 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****** would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know?
"So that I could kill him.
“It took me a week, maybe a week and a half, to go through that...
“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that.
"And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist.
“It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the f*** are you doing,’ you know?
“I come from a society – I grew up in Northern Ireland in the Troubles – and, you know, I knew a couple of guys that died on hunger strike, and I had acquaintances who were very caught up in the Troubles, and I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing, and Northern Ireland’s proof of that."
Neeson’s comments have triggered debate on social media.
Radio presenter Clara Amfo, author Marian Keyes and actress Annie Wallace were among those who reacted to Neeson’s statement, with Keyes saying she was “mortified”.
The Northern Irish actor denied being a racist in the interview, explaining how he was brought up during The Troubles in the country of his birth.
"I am not racist, this was nearly 40 years ago. I was brought up in the north of Ireland and brought up in 'The Troubles', the 60s, 70s and early 80s."
Neeson clarified he asked about his friend for a greater description of the culprit, rather than just the colour of his skin, as the original interview only stated that he ascertained he was black.
Questioned when he discussed the attackers height and age: "I asked all those questions, too, I did. But I did ask about race."
Presenter Robin Roberts asked if he would have reacted the same if the culprit was from a different demographic, Neeson said: "Oh definitely, if she said Irish, Scot, Brit or Lithuanian, I know I would have felt the same effect.
"I was trying to show honour, stand up for my dear friend in this terrible, medieval fashion. I am a fairly intelligent guy and it kind of shocked me when I came down to earth. Luckily, no violence occurred."