The red carpet at the New York premiere of Liam Neeson’s new film has been cancelled after he confessed to violent thoughts about killing a black person.
Organisers said there would no longer be interviews and photo opportunities at the event to promote Neeson’s movie Cold Pursuit – just hours before it was due to start – but the film will still be screened.
It comes after the actor sparked controversy after revealing he once went in search for revenge on a random “black man” following the rape of a close friend several years ago.
Neeson told the Independent he armed himself with a cosh weapon, hoping someone “would have a go” at him so he could kill them, but he quickly felt ashamed by his behaviour.
His comments have been met with outrage, with many people calling for his films to be boycotted and for the Northern Irish star to be stripped of his OBE.
Neeson later insisted he is not racist as he addressed the backlash on US television on Tuesday.
Appearing on Good Morning America, the Oscar-nominated actor said he quickly became shocked by his feelings after his friend was raped, and that he sought help from a priest at the time.
“Because my friend was brutally raped and I thought I was defending her honour, and I admit that,” Neeson said. “It’s a learning curve.
“We all pretend we’re all kind of politically correct. In this country – it’s the same in my own country too – you sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism. And bigotry. And it’s there.”
The actor added that if his friend, who has since died, had told him she had been raped by someone who was “Irish or Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian”, he would have felt the same.
Former England footballer John Barnes defended Neeson following his controversial remarks, saying the actor “deserves a medal” for his honesty.
Barnes, who suffered racist abuse during his football career, told Sky News he respected Neeson for telling the truth about his feelings, and that “we are all unconscious racists”.
“He’s not ashamed and horrified at wanting to commit the act of revenge, he’s ashamed and horrified because that is what he thought about all black people,” Barnes said.
Meanwhile, a Sky Data poll revealed more people think Neeson was right rather than wrong to admit once having violent thoughts about killing a black person.
Some 44% think he was right to make the admission, while 30% think he was wrong – 19% answered neither, with 6% unsure.
There was also little to suggest his admission will affect whether people watch his films – 12% say they are less likely to watch his films following the comments, but 8% think they are now more likely, with 74% saying it will make no difference.