“I have no right to even imagine the hurt that is caused by hearing that word in any context,” Mortensen’s statement read “especially from a white man.”
News of the incident at the Film Independent screening of “Green Book,” sponsored by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, first broke online as shocked audience members tweeted the reactions to Mortensen’s use of a racial slur.
Variety has corroborated Twitter accounts by three separate individuals in the room.
In a conversation moderated by Film Independent programmer Elvis Mitchell, Mortensen spoke about cyclical and generational use of hate speech, according to several audience members in attendance. Mortensen offered his thoughts on the matter in a question addressed to co-star Mahershala Ali. He used the N-word specifically as an example of speech that’s no longer common in conversation. But still, it’s use in the moment “shifted the energy” of an otherwise meaningful and poignant conversation, one of the individuals present said.
While several accounts on social media expressed understandable shock, the individuals Variety spoke with said the moment was more “uncomfortable” than it was intentionally confrontational.
Mortensen has since released a full apology stating, “Last night I participated in a Q&A session moderated by Elvis Mitchell following a screening of ‘Green Book’ in Los Angeles. In making the point that many people casually used the “N” word at the time in which the movie story takes place, in 1962, I used the full word.
Although my intention was to speak strongly against racism, I have no right to even imagine the hurt that is caused by hearing that word in any context, especially from a white man. I do not use the word in private or in public. I am very sorry that I did use the full word last night, and will not utter it again.
One of the reasons I accepted the challenge of working on Peter Farrelly’s movie ‘Green Book’ was to expose ignorance and prejudice in the hope that our movie story might help in some way to change peoples’ views and feelings regarding racial issues. It is a beautiful, profound movie story that I am very proud to be a part of.”
Co-star Ali and Film Independent have not responded to request for comment.