Puttnam: Criticism of Neeson went too far

Renowned film producer David Puttnam has described the public criticism of Liam Neeson after a controversial interview earlier this year as “embarrassingly” quick.

Mr Puttnam, the Cork-based British film producer, has defended Mr Neeson after the actor said in an interview in February that, following the rape of a friend, he went out and walked the streets looking for a “black man” to provoke and kill.

He became embroiled in a storm over the comments but denied that there was any racism in his remarks.

Speaking on the latest episode of the UCC podcast ‘Plain Speaking’, Mr Puttnam said that the public criticism of Mr Neeson went too far.

“He’s a good man, decent man. There’s no bad in Liam,” he said.

“Did he lose his temper? Possibly. Has he lived a very privileged lifestyle for quite a long time? Does that put you into a slight bubble? Maybe, but this is not a bad man. The idea that suddenly Liam Neeson has turned out to be someone different from the person we thought he was or someone less empathetic than the person we thought he was, is stupid.

“Liam was a boxer. He does know how to handle himself. He comes from a pretty tough background, but is he a decent man? Absolutely. Have we been quick to rush to judgment? Totally and embarrassingly I think.”

Mr Puttnam spoke at length about working in the film industry. He described it as “tough” and said that “empathy doesn’t come naturally.”

Responding to heavy criticism of the industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein “debacle” and the Me Too movement, Lord Puttnam said that these have had knock-on waves for many in the industry.

He said, “You look at this year’s awards and I’m listening to conversations at the moment where, frankly, sooner or later there’s going to be a group of actors saying, “Hold on a second, I can’t get any work. Unfortunately, I’m the wrong colour because, not that I’m black, I’m white. I think that these things require constant looking at and constant rebalancing, that’s for sure.”

Mr Puttnam spent 30 years as an independent producer of award-winning films including The Killing Fields and Chariots of Fire.

The film producer also addressed the value of an arts education.

“Take the creative industries including the digital world, there’s been a quite extraordinary explosion to the extent that, now there are far more jobs year on year in the creative industries, what people might call the creative industries than there are in finance. You tell that to the average parent and they look at you as though you’re crazy but, in fact, that is the case.”

The West Cork resident said that he has seen in a loss in the sense of community in Ireland in recent years.

“I can’t pretend that I see the same commitment to community amongst the children and grandchildren of the people I met and were my neighbours for 30 years that was here when I arrived.

“In a way, we were able to - I’m guilty of it - retreat within ourselves. The need to go out, be convivial, deal with people, and to see that the richness of your life was mirrored in your interactions and interconnectivity with other people, I think that retreated, perhaps the whole business of pub life and people meeting on a very regular basis every Tuesday, every Thursday to do this, to do that. I think we have been atomised and we have been insulated.”

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