Viggo Mortensen issued a formal apology for using the N-word during a post-screening Q&A for his film Green Book Wednesday night in Los Angeles.
“Last night I participated in a Q&A session moderated by Elvis Mitchell following a screening of Green Book in Los Angeles,” Mortensen said Thursday in a statement obtained by EW. “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.”
Mortensen appeared alongside costar Mahershala Ali and director Peter Farrelly to discuss the film after a screening hosted by Film Independent at the ArcLight Hollywood. Green Book takes place in 1962 as a Bronx bouncer (Mortensen) is hired to drive a world-class pianist (Ali) on a concert tour from New York to the deep South. They relied on “The Green Book,” a guide to the few safe establishments for African-Americans at the time.
According to the Daily Mail, Mortensen reportedly said in discussing race in America, “For instance, no one says [the N-word] anymore,” using the full word. Word of the incident broke out on social media through attendees present at the panel. One wrote how “the oxygen immediately left the room” when the word was uttered and another said a woman in the audience exclaimed “don’t say that.”
Others told Variety the moment “shifted the energy” of what was a meaningful conversation and was more “uncomfortable” than confrontational.
“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,” Mortensen’s statement continues. “It is a beautiful, profound movie story that I am very proud to be a part of.”