Liam Neeson has told a journalist that, following the rape of a friend, he went out with a cosh with a mind to kill, in his words, a "black b*st*rd".
During the extraordinary interview with the Independent (UK), he placed air quotes around the offending words and expressed shame for his behaviour, but, even for an actor known for not mincing words, the comments will raise eyebrows.
“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way,” Neeson said during the interview. “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, hoping I’d be… approached by somebody. I’m ashamed to say that, and I did it for maybe a week – hoping some [air quotes with his fingers] ‘black b*st*rd’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could kill him.”
The actor, who was promoting his upcoming revenge thriller Cold Pursuit, went on to explain that, as days passed and he calmed down, he realised the wrongness of his actions.
“It was horrible, horrible, when I think back, that I did that,” he said. “And I’ve never admitted that, and I’m saying it to a journalist. God forbid.”
The Independent has made audio of the interview available online.
Though generally reserved in interviews, Neeson has a history of surprising outbursts. Last year, in an interview for The Late Late Show, he described the allegations of sexual abuse that followed the Harvey Weinstein revelations as "a bit of a witch hunt".
"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.
“All this stuff that’s happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand.”
No further clarification has emerged concerning the current controversy. The Irish Times has approached Neeson's agent for comment, but has not yet received a response.