Public candor about private failings is not a wise policy in our current situation. You can’t say “I once succumbed to an urge to practice witchcraft back in the ’70s.” To the Cotton Mather crowd that’s like saying you might put a hex on someone tomorrow.
But actors have emotionally expansive, compulsively honest natures, and so poor, impetuous Liam Neeson is going to have to face suspicions and charges of witchcraft for the rest of his life. Hell, they might come for him today and haul his ass over to the nearest lake and dunk him a few times.
Neeson has admitted that 40 years ago, when he was in his mid to late 20s, he experienced an illogical, enraged, tribal reaction to a friend having been raped by a person of color. He told an interviewer that he would have felt the same gut-level animosity “if she had said an Irish or a Scot or a Brit or a Lithuanian [had raped her]…[it] would have had the same effect. I was trying to show honor, to stand up for my dear friend in this terribly medieval fashion.”
Neeson offered the recollection during an interview that was posted yesterday in The Independent. He was promoting Cold Pursuit (Summit, 2.8), his latest revenge thriller. On a certain level Neeson was brave to admit that he was briefly seized by an ugly and bigoted impulse in his presumably intemperate, immoderate youth, but look at what’s happened.
This morning he attempted some damage control in a chat with ABC’s Robin Roberts. “We all pretend we’re all politically correct in this country…in mine, too,” Neeson said. “You sometimes just scratch the surface and you discover this racism and bigotry, and it’s there.”
I’ve mentioned witch-dunking in a satiric vein, but maybe this is actually the best way to handle the Neeson thing. Put him into a burlap bag, drive him out to Malibu pier, dunk him in the Pacific a few times. If he’s still breathing after the fifth or sixth submersion, he’ll be forgiven and allowed to work again. If he doesn’t make it, then at least the world will have one less suspected witch to deal with.