Liam Neeson sparks outrage with comments about seeking a revenge killing of a black man

Actor Liam Neeson is getting heat for a story he told a journalist about rape, revenge and racism.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

In a recent interview, Liam Neeson recounted his brief desire for revenge against a man who allegedly raped someone close to him — an admission that drew swift criticism for the celebrated star Monday because of its violent and discriminatory nature.

Without identifying the rape survivor, the actor said that upon learning of the sexual assault some time ago, he immediately asked the victim who her assailant was and “what color were they.” Upon learning he was black, Neeson took to the streets to kill the man — or any random person he thought fit the racial description.

Published Monday, the disturbing revelation was made in an interview with the British newspaper the Independent during a news junket for the action star’s upcoming film, “Cold Pursuit,” about three weeks ago.Perhaps to illuminate his character’s modus operandi, Neeson recounted the tale, which described the “primal need” for violence.


“I asked, did she know who it was? No. What color were they? She said it was a black person,” the 66-year-old said, according to an audio recording of the actor. “I went up and down areas with a cosh [a bludgeon], hoping I’d be approached by somebody — I’m ashamed to say that — and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could … kill him.”

At the time, the “Taken” star said he would just tell the rape survivor that he was going out for a walk.

“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that,” Neeson said. “And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”

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Neeson, whose costar Tom Bateman was also present during the interview, tried to convey some remorse and said he eventually came to and learned a lesson. He added that because he grew up in embattled Northern Ireland, he understands “that need for revenge.”

“But it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing, and Northern Ireland’s proof of that. All this stuff that’s happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand,” he said.


Neeson’s spokesperson did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for a comment on Monday.

Twitter users both harangued and criticized the action star on Monday for sharing the story. Here’s a sampling of their reactions.


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