Viggo Mortensen

Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for HFA

Viggo Mortensenis saying sorry. 

The Oscar-nominated star shocked fans at a screening and Q&A on Wednesday night for his upcoming film, Green Book. The movie, which also stars Mahershala Ali, chronicles a friendship between a black pianist and his white chauffeur in the 1960s south. During the event in Los Angeles, Mortensen reportedly said, “People don’t say ‘n—-r’ anymore,” attempting to make the point that the word was used more frequently at the time when Green Book takes place. 

However, Mortensen’s use of the full word immediately stunned people in the audience. “Was at a screening for #GreenBook—the movie is amazing, but at the Q&A after Viggo Mortensen just dropped the N Word and the oxygen immediately left the room,” one person tweeted

“I was there last night too and it was by far the most bizarre and uncomfortable moment I’ve ever witnessed at a Q&A,” another attendee tweeted. “He went on a mini rant about taking power away from the word and shouted it to make a point. The audience went silent. One woman behind me reacted vocally.”

“I was already confused what point he was trying to make on race relations. We were ready for Mahershala or Peter to start talking again… and then he dropped i,” a third person described on social media

While some online have defended the star, arguing that he did not use the word to hurt or insult anyone, Mortensen issued an apology on Thursday. 

“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,” his statement began. “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.”

As the Lord of the Rings star concluded, “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.”

Green Book hits theaters Nov. 16. 

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