Viggo Mortensen apologises after using racial slur at Green Book screening

Oscar-nominated actor Viggo Mortensen , best known for his role as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, has apologised for his use of the N-Word in at a screening for his new film Green Book.

Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly , centres on the real -life friendship between Italian-American bouncer Tony Lip (Mortensen) and African-American classical musician Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), and is set during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, as Lip chauffeurs Shirley on a tour of the Deep South of the United States. Shirley faces racial discrimination in the film, with Lip often coming to his defence.

Mortensen and Ali have both been praised for their performances in the film, with both widely considered to be favourites to receive Oscar nominations in 2019.

At a screening on October 7, Mortensen appeared in a Q & A alongside his co-star Ali, where he spoke about progress in Civil Rights and used a racial slur while making his point.

In a statement delivered to IndieWire , Mortensen has apologised for his use of the N-word.

"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."

Mahershala Ali has since responded in a statement published in Variety .

“However well-intended or intellectual the conversation may have been, it wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the n-word. He has made it clear to me that he’s aware of this, and apologized profusely immediately following the Q&A with Elvis Mitchell. Knowing his intention was to express that removing the n-word from your vocabulary doesn’t necessarily disqualify a person as a racist or participating in actions or thoughts that are bigoted, I can accept and embrace his apology.”

Ali, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2017 for his role in Moonlight, also spoke of the use of the word in a wider cultural sense.

“An excellent and poignant thought was unfortunately overshadowed by voicing the word in its fullness. Which for me, is always hurtful,” Ali said. “The use of the word within the black community has long been debated, and its usage should continue to be examined within the black community.

“The use of the word by those who aren’t black, is not up for debate. The history of discrimination, slavery, pain, oppression and violence that the word has come to symbolize only causes harm to members of the black community and therefore needs to be left in the past.”

Green Book will be released in UK cinemas on February 8, 2019.

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