Northern Ireland news

Liam Neeson a 'decent man', leading film producer says following race row

Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson was criticised for comments he made earlier this year about wanting to kill a black man after his friend was raped. Picture by Laura Hutton, Press Association

LIAM Neeson is a "decent man" who people have been "totally and embarrassingly" quick to judge, an Oscar-winning producer has said.

Lord David Puttnam, who produced award-winning films including Chariots of Fire, The Killing Fields and The Mission, said the Ballymena-born actor was "not a bad man".

Neeson was heavily criticised earlier this year after he told an interviewer of his shame at once walking the streets armed with a "cosh" hoping to kill a black person, after learning that someone close to him had been raped by a black man.

The actor later insisted he was "not racist" and said would have had the same reaction regardless of the man’s race.

Read more: Liam Neeson denies being racist as he describes ‘medieval' desire for revenge

Lord Puttnam, who lives in west Cork, told University College Cork's podcast, Plain Speaking, that there was "no bad in Liam".

"Did he lose his temper?" he said.

"Possibly. Has he lived a very privileged lifestyle for quite a long time?

"Does that put you into a slight bubble? Maybe, but this is not a bad man.

"The idea that suddenly Liam Neeson has turned out to be someone different from the person we thought he was or someone less empathetic than the person we thought he was, is stupid.

"Liam was a boxer. He does know how to handle himself. He comes from a pretty tough background, but is he a decent man?

"Absolutely. Have we been quick to rush to judgment? Totally and embarrassingly I think."

Lord Puttnam spent 30 years as an independent producer of award-winning films which won a total of ten Oscars, ten golden globes, 25 Baftas and the Palme D'Or at Cannes.

He said he felt that Ireland had lost its sense of community during the decades he has lived in west Cork.

"I can't pretend that I see the same commitment to community amongst the children and grandchildren of the people I met and were my neighbours for 30 years that was here when I arrived," he said.

"In a way, we were able to - I'm guilty of it - retreat within ourselves.

"The need to go out, be convivial, deal with people, and to see that the richness of your life was mirrored in your interactions and interconnectivity with other people, I think that retreated, perhaps the whole business of pub life and people meeting on a very regular basis every Tuesday, every Thursday to do this, to do that. I think we have been atomised and we have been insulated."

Read more: Liam Neeson denies being racist as he describes ‘medieval' desire for revenge

Lord David Puttnam produced Oscar-winning films including Chariots of Fire. Picture by Justine Walpole

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