Viggo Mortensen speaks at the Film Independent screening of Green Book at ArcLight Hollywood on Nov. 7 in Hollywood, California.By Araya Diaz/Getty Images.There comes a point in every actor’s awards-season journey when they stumble. They do or say the wrong thing, getting tied up in a little scandal in the midst of doing months and months of press. Well, Viggo Mortensen’s time has come, and it‘s a doozy. During a recent Q&A event after a screening of Green Book—Peter Farrelly’s drama about the friendship between a black pianist (Mahershala Ali) and his racist white driver (Mortensen) set in the Jim Crow-era South—the actor went on a tangent while speaking about race relations in America.“For instance, no one says n–ger anymore,” the actor said, using the n-word in full, according to The Hollywood Reporter. According to Dick Schulz, an audience member who spoke to T.H.R., Mortensen made the remark while answering a question that had been directed at another panelist, jumping in to talk about racism and modern progress in America.“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, but, for instance, people don’t say’—and then he said the n-word in its entirety—‘anymore,’ and you could just feel the room immediately tense up,” Schulz said. “And the craziest thing was they had just talked about body language, so I felt like everyone was really attuned to body language, and everyone’s body language on the panel immediately tensed up.”Per Schulz, one woman in the crowded shouted at the actor not to say the word. “I think that he immediately regretted it,” Schulz said, noting that Mortensen kept talking and trying to get back to his main point.On Thursday, Mortensen released an apologetic statement to T.H.R., saying he was sorry and that he “will not utter it again.”“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. 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 said. “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 also said one of the reasons he wanted to make Green Book “was to expose ignorance and prejudice in the hope that our movie’s story might help in some way to change people’s views and feelings regarding racial issues. It is a beautiful, profound movie story that I am very proud to be a part of.”Ali, meanwhile, has expertly navigated this topic before.More Great Stories from Vanity Fair— What Louis C.K. should actually talk about in his stand-up sets— The truth about Freddie Mercury’s love life— Natalie Portman finds a new voice— Diane Lane is here for female fury— Will Netflix’s master plan help it own the Oscars?Looking for more? Sign up for our daily Hollywood newsletter and never miss a story.Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.
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