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‘Cold Pursuit’ Director Defends Liam Neeson as a ‘Very Decent, Grounded Man’

In Berlin to promote his latest film, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland insisted that Liam Neeson is “not a racist” in response to the recent brouhaha around comments made by the star of Moland’s Lionsgate thriller “Cold Pursuit.”

“He is a very honest, he is a very decent, grounded man,” Moland said at a press conference for “Out Stealing Horses,” his new drama starring Stellan Skarsgard, which premieres Saturday in competition at the Berlin Film Festival.

Moland said that people who had not seen “Cold Pursuit” but who have been upset by Neeson’s comments are “commenting on [the movie] in derogatory ways…lumping it together with something that has nothing to do with it. It’s taking my voice away.”

While promoting “Cold Pursuit,” Neeson told Britain’s Independent newspaper last week that, 40 years ago, upon hearing that a friend was allegedly raped by a black attacker, he wanted to “unleash physical violence” and walked the streets hoping to kill some “black bastard.” In the wake of his remarks, Tuesday’s red carpet at the New York premiere of Moland’s revenge drama was canceled just hours before guests were to arrive.

Speaking in Berlin on Saturday, Skarsgard said: “I find it disturbing and frightening to live in a world where people get punished not only for their deeds, but they get punished also for what you say. You can get punished for what you think. But most of all you get punished for what people think you think.”

Moland said audiences should read Neeson’s quotes in context rather than “listening to all the Twitterati.” He added: “I made a film about the futility of revenge. It makes fun of all the gangster stereotypes, all of the other kind of stereotypes you can think of. It’s a cautionary tale about revenge, and I’d like people to see it for that.”

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