Oscar-nominated actor Viggo Mortensen apologized for using the N-word during a panel discussion Wednesday following the screening of his new film “Green Book.”
Mortensen’s remark came during a discussion about race in America following a screening put on by the Film Independent Presents group in Hollywood, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“For instance, no one says N— anymore,” he said.
Dick Schulz, a Film Independent member and freelance director, said he was present at the screening in a tweet and that the “oxygen immediately left the room” after Mortensen’s comment.
“It was all anyone was talking about when we left the theater,” Schulz said. “I was hearing everybody passing by me going up the stairs going, ‘That was crazy!'”
In “Green Book,” Mortensen plays a bouncer hired by famed African-American pianist, Don Shirley, to serve as his driver and security during a 1960s tour of the Jim Crow-era South.
The movie title references “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” which served as a travel guide for African-Americans traveling in the South during segregation by listing friendly and whites-only hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
“In making the point that many people casually used the ‘N’ word at the time in which the movie’s story takes place, in 1962, I used the full word,” Mortensen said in a statement to THR. “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.”
He promised never to say it again.
According to Schulz, Mortensen responded to a question directed at another panelist and quickly went downhill from there.
“Viggo just started talking, and it got away from him quickly,” Schulz said. “And that’s when he went, ‘I’m gonna go off on a tangent here, but it’s important, and I don’t like saying the word,” before uttering the word.
The incident follows a former Netflix communication executive who said the N-word during a company meeting in the context of explaining why it shouldn’t be said.
Johnathan Friedland was dismissed from the company in June for “unacceptably low racial awareness and sensitivity,” according to Netflix.