Viggo Mortensen apologized over the weekend after he used the ‘n-word’ on Wednesday evening during a post-screening panel for his new film Green Book. 

The 60-year-old Danish-American actor was participating in a Q&A session in Los Angeles for the historical comedy-drama, which centers on the friendship between a white, Italian-American chauffer named Tony Lip — played by Mortensen — and a black classical pianist named Don Shirley and the obstacles they face while Shirley is on a concert tour in the Southern United States in the 1960s. The movie, directed and co-written by Peter Farrelly, is set to the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and the racism that permeated the era of segregation.

Mortensen was explaining how certain types of racial slurs and other racist language are not as commonly used anymore, and said: “For instance, no one says ‘n—er’ anymore.”

Several people were quickly shocked by the actor’s comment.


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“It was all anyone was talking about when we left the theater,” Dick Schulz, a director who attended the screening, told The Hollywood Reporter. “I was hearing everybody passing by me going up the stairs going, ‘That was crazy! Why did he say that? You cannot say that!’”

Mortensen’s Green Book co-star Mahershala Ali also said he found the actor’s remarks “hurtful,” although he then accepted Mortensen’s apology.

“However well-intended or intellectual the conversation may have been, it wasn’t appropriate for Viggo to say the n-word,” said the 44-year-old Oscar winner. “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.”


Mortensen later released the following statement to IndieWire to issue his apology:

“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,” read the statement. “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.”

He also published the following statement on Facebook on Sunday.

Green Book, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, will be released on Nov. 16. The film is already generating highly positive reviews and awards buzz.

Ali won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2017 for his role in Moonlight, which also won Best Picture. That same year, Mortensen received a Best Actor nomination for his leading role in Captain Fantastic. 

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