Viggo Mortensen apologized for full-on using the n-word during a ‘Green Book’ panel

22nd Annual Hollywood Film Awards

In my mind, if you are not black, you really should never, ever say or write the n-word. The only debate I’ll even hear on this is whether it’s appropriate, IN WRITING ONLY, to quote someone who said the word for journalistic purposes. That’s possibly the only exception, and even then, nearly every media outlet and blogger in the world chooses to just use “n-word” or “n—r.” But actually saying the word if you’re not black? Don’t do it. Never. Not even when you’re quoting someone. Not even if you’re saying “people never say —-.” So, Viggo Mortensen stepped in it. He’s promoting Green Book, where he plays the white driver/bodyguard to a musician played by Mahershala Ali, as they travel around the deep Jim Crow South. I’ll let The Hollywood Reporter explain what happened, just know that my mouth dropped open when I read this:

Oscar-nominated actor Viggo Mortensen is apologizing for using the N-word while speaking at a post-screening discussion about his new movie Green Book, promising, “I will not utter it again.”

During an Elvis Mitchell-moderated Q&A following a Film Independent Presents screening at the Arclight Hollywood on Wednesday of Peter Farrelly’s new film about an interracial friendship, Mortensen, seated beside costar Mahershala Ali and Farrelly, used the N-word while speaking about racial progress in America.

“For instance, no one says n— anymore,” Mortensen said during a long discourse about race in America, according to Film Independent member Dick Schulz, a Hollywood-based freelance director who was present and who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday night after his tweet about the comments began to go viral. Two other Twitter users, who claimed to have been at the Q&A, echoed Schulz’s assertions.

In a statement to THR, in which he apologized for using the word, Mortensen acknowledged, “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. 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. 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’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.”

[From The Hollywood Reporter]

According to the original report from Dick Schulz, “Viggo just started talking, and it got away from him quickly. He started talking about how, in this climate, the world today, progress isn’t going to happen quickly, it’s going to happen slowly, but the movie is going to mean a lot for a long time because we’re constantly coming up against racism and how racism is almost human nature and these things come in waves.” Then, Schulz says, Viggo used the n-word and “you could just feel the room immediately tense up… everyone’s body language on the panel immediately tensed up. I think that he immediately regretted it.”

As for Viggo’s apology… from what I’ve seen, when people feel comfortable enough saying that word in public, in the middle of a g–damn panel discussion, that means they’ve practiced saying it home plenty of times. So I don’t really buy Viggo’s “I do not use the word in private or in public” explanation, especially since HE CLEARLY USED THE WORD IN PUBLIC. Ugh, what a mess. I’m not even going to bother feeling sorry for anyone other than Mahershala Ali. Ali is a man of such dignity and grace, I can’t even imagine what that was like for him, to sit there next to his white costar, and the white guy fully drops the n-word during a promotional event. How awful.

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66 Responses to “Viggo Mortensen apologized for full-on using the n-word during a ‘Green Book’ panel”

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  1. savu says:

    WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THIS IS OKAY?! I kinda get the point he was trying to make, but absolutely nothing is lost to say “the n-word” instead. I mean, come on. I’ve never ever said it, and I still feel the natural urge to quiet my voice and pause for a second before saying “the n-word”.

    • Kittycat says:

      I am so disappointed in Viggo. Like what was he thinking.

      • Marley31 says:

        I am a proud black women and I never use the word I think my ancestors and many black men and women before me died and suffered because of that word and many have fought with there blood sweat and tears not to be called that word so as a black woman why would I use that word period especially as a term of endearment as some black people do. When I sing a song and that word is in the lyrics I don’t even utter the word. My children were raised not to say that word and they don’t and when I was younger hen I would ride the bus everyone would sit in the back of the bus and crack jokes and have fun me I would sit in the front or middle of the bus and only if I had to sit in the back then I would because I know back in the day sitting in the back of the bus was not fun nor was being called or having someone use the n word . So people just don’t don’t use it. That word has a lot of hatred and death and derogatory meaning attached to it so just don’t.

    • Olympia's The Name says:

      I just can’t believe that he sat right up there, surrounded by Black people and thought that just because no one is using the word around him he thinks NO ONE IS USING THE WORD. LIKE HE’S THE KEEPER OF THE N-WORD’s STATUS.

      That’s what pissed me off – not just that he said it, but what he said about it.

      Peak whiteness.

  2. Kittycat says:

    Viggo is a complete idiot.

  3. Lala11_7 says:

    It’s a word steeped in American culture…

    It’s a word STEEPED in the movie he was referencing…

    I have been tracking Viggo for damn near 30 years…I never heard about him treating Black folks like the “n” word….and neither did I hear about that stance from the people he hung out with back in the day…(70s and 80s)

    So…as a Black woman…when I think of the ENDLESS list of societal BS that I am LIVID about…

    This…doesn’t even make the list….

    • Paleokifaru says:

      I understand what Kaiser is saying about comfort level but I thought, like you, that the movie he is promoting is full of that language. He may have been saying it in character or hearing it enough that it felt okay to use it as part of a dialogue about themes within the movie and culture. His apology was absolutely correct. I’m not sure in this specific case, with the movie and discussion, I feel comfortable jumping on the idea that he has used this slur in his personal life. But boy did I feel uncomfortable reading that he said it!

    • DS9 says:

      Right. He was making a point and discussing the word in a specific context. I don’t think there’s any reason to believe this is a commonly used word for him.

      • MyBlackCat says:

        My son’s stepmother read Huck Finn unabridged,out loud to 3 kids under 7 (She is white from Tennessee), and used the full n word liberally. Thoughts??

    • ValiantlyVarnished says:

      We can all only speak for ourselves. Ive been a fan of his for years. And while there may not have been any indication of racism on his part in the past – the man has worked with mostly only white people! How would we even know?? And there is no way of knowing what he does or doesnt say in private. There are a LOT of low key racists in this world. Which is why racism continues to exist. It’s not the people in white hoods. It’s the people who feel okay using that word in private among “their own”. Is Viggo racist? I don’t know. I hope not. It would be greatly disappointing. But as a Black woman…I’m giving him MAJOR side eye. Because at the VERY LEAST, he has a MAJOR blindspot to allow that word to slip out of his mouth whe HE SITS NEXT TO HIS BLACK COSTAR!!

      • Sigh... says:

        “How would we even know?? There are a LOT of low key racists in this world.”

        Yeah…since 2015/Presidential Campaign run, there have been ppl on this very website who themselves said they’ve had to abandon ppl they “knew” IN THEIR OWN LIVES and *thought* they would never/have never…yet, now, abt a man that they know even less about,…?

        The man who plowed his car thru the crowd in Charlottesville had a titular “black friend,” yet…the bandkids who spelled out the racial slur, on field – all 4 were POC, yet…

        But I see the context, so could he still win an Oscar? Yup! HW (& America) loooves stories where the white lead is “redeemed”/”forgiven”/”changed” in some way, on & off camera.

    • Hannah Maguire says:

      Agreed. Also a WOC and I’m neither offended nor mortified.

      Didn’t he date Josie D’Arby for years?

      • ValiantlyVarnished says:

        You can date a POC and still be racist. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

      • Mee says:

        Racist Barbie has a black boyfriend. The white woman who called police on her black male neighbor whom she watched open his door with his keys…, is married to a black man. so racist people definitely date POC. The ease with which he said the word, means he uses it privately.

      • Hannah Maguire says:

        I realise this and don’t need to be educated on same, thank you. I dated someone who later turned out to be an abusive racist.

        I was asking the question seperately.

    • Shak says:

      I second Lala also as a black woman. I add that you can hear it often, never say it yourself, and it still slips out when you’re trying to make a point. People can not be okay with it and not be insulting.

    • stormsmama says:

      I appreciate your perspective on this

      The word has so much history- so much hatred, so many horrors, so much pain…

      I am loathe to say whether or not he understood the fully entrenched power of that word coming from anyone but esp a white man

  4. Mumbles says:

    I appreciate that I’m dancing on the third rail here but I think there’s a difference between using the word as an epiphet (never allowed for white people) and using it as an abstract noun, not meant to insult someone. (E.g. “Mark Twain uses the word **** X times in ‘Huckleberry Finn.'”

    • Tanesha86 says:

      You think that mumbles but you would be incorrect. It really doesn’t matter the context, non-black people shouldn’t ever say it PERIOD.

      • Mumbles says:

        Should they say the phrase “n-word”? Isn’t that as bad, since it makes people think of the bad word?

      • Tanesha86 says:

        No it isn’t as bad as saying the word there’s no comparison really. For me censoring yourself shows you respect black people enough not to use the word.

  5. Darla says:

    This is very hard to buy. I don’t use the word and didn’t grow up with it in my home, and I can’t say it. I don’t think it would come out. I do say “the n word” when discussing racism, but I don’t think the whole word would come out of my mouth. I don’t know. This seems very strange.

  6. Jane says:

    I heard that there was talk that he could be nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the movie. However, seeing that this issue came up, I wonder if his chances of get an Oscar nod are dashed. It can go either way.

    On another note, I never enjoyed hearing the “N” word. My father used it often as a child and I felt ill hearing it. I knew it was wrong to say it 40 years ago, feel the same way now.

    • ChillyWilly says:

      I know how you feel. My step-grandfather (may he rot in hell) said it all the time. Even after my 9 year old self pleaded with him to stop. As for Viggo, an intelligent man in his 50’s should damn well know not to utter that word EVER. I’m done with him.

  7. Nev says:


  8. Veronica S. says:

    I mean…I have mixed feelings about this one. I don’t use that word commonly and don’t support white supremacy (as much as I can directly because I inevitably benefit from it being white), but I’ve used it in an academic context when required and encountered it plenty in historical documents/books. I don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean that all contexts are equivalent. He’s speaking about the evolution of a culture from racist origins, It was stupid to use it, but it may be reflective of how much his cultural upbringing removes him from how incredibly charged the word is in America. His apology isn’t, “Sorry you were offended” nonsense, it’s “here is the reason I used it, here is the reason I was wrong to use it, and I recognize I may have caused emotional injury doing so.”

    This being said, I *am* white, so it’s not my place to cast the final judgement on this matter. This may be better left to the POC on this forum to express exactly how they feel about this.

    • Tanesha86 says:

      This may seem like hair splitting but it’s not for POC to decide, it’s for black people to decide. He was wrong and he should have known better and I’m not happy about the situation but I’m also not sure I want to cancel him just yet. For me he’s skating a thin line.

      • Veronica S. says:

        To clarify, I used POC because I didn’t want to exclude people with multi-ethnic heritage (i.e. black AND Native America/Latino/etc.) who may self-identity differently, but I agree, it is specifically a word and an issue related to the African American experience in America. I’m honestly most curious about Mahershala Ali felt about it, even though that puts him in the shitty position of having to be the actor once again defined by his blackness.

      • Veronica S. says:

        Actually, coming back to this comment, the more I think about it, you have a very good point about those of us who are white arguing about context when the damage is done either way. White silence and the complicity of our ignorance is a huge issue with contemporary America. It’s part of why we’re in this situation politically. So I apologize for that arrogance in my original comment and agree that Viggo is responsible for the backlash he’s earned regardless of his intent. I need to do better, too, and keep a better eye on how my own white privilege informs my position.

  9. Steff says:

    I think in this case, context matters. He was discussing racial progress in America. He wasn’t calling someone a n-word or even saying it in a joke (Bill Maher). It’s still not ok he said it but I don’t think this proves he’s a racist. Still, it deserves an apology and he apologized. We have to make it clear you CAN’T say it.

    • Tanesha86 says:

      You realize you’re minimizing by arguing that context matters right? It really doesn’t. White people and non-black people in general should keep that word out of their vocabulary no matter the context, it’s 2018 and we all know it’s wrong at this point.

      • Steff says:

        If you thought my saying context matters was excusing him then I’m sorry. I meant it wasn’t said in a casually racist way because they were discussing racial progress, but it’s still not ok to say.

      • DS9 says:

        I’m black. Context matters. What now?

      • Tanesha86 says:

        @DS9 I’m black too, what’s your point? Context doesn’t matter, the word still stings no matter the context. Next!

      • lara says:

        How should it be handled in an academic/educational context? If you write about the history of racist literature and how racist propaganda works?
        It is one thing to say “n-word” during a academical discussion to prevent saying the actual word, but to write a sentence like “xy used the n-word in…” would be simply wrong in a scientific paper.

    • BB says:

      Whether or not he’s racist is irrelevant to the discussion, IMO. The word was shouted at people as they were enslaved, beaten, and lynched simply because of the color of their skin. You don’t f****** say it if your skin is white.

  10. Navyluv1 says:

    White man white man’in? Who suprised?

  11. eto says:

    “For instance, no one says n— anymore,” Mortensen said during a long discourse about race in America.

    This whole statement tells me that Viggo is really not even equipped to have this conversation IMO.

    • osito says:

      100% accurate.

    • stormsmama says:

      Thank you for this.

      I really don’t understand WHAT he was TRYING to say. But I can say if he wasn’t sure what to say he should’ve shut up and listen. How bout turn to his costar and ask him his thoughts?

      As I said above I am loathe to speculate on his true intentions or his understanding of how entrenched and awful and painful and destructive even the use of the word is
      BUT there’s really no reason to say it

      Eto you make aGREAT point.

    • Gia says:

      Exactly. People put the these celebrities on pedestals and they can reach huge audiences because of their fame but that does not make all of them intelligent beings. Many are high school drop outs who fucked their way to the top of Hollywood or came from a theater background or via nepotism. Famous or not I’m not surprised Viggo is as ignorant as he is. His comment was strange it didn’t really make sense and he was on stage NOT in character and his PR people wrote that apology and he might not even stand by it. I wish these entertainers sticked to entertaining and stopped pretending to be smarter or more aware/woke than they actually are.

  12. kristen says:

    How the f*ck is it so hard to understand — you DON’T say this word.
    I don’t care if you’re being academic, ironic, telling a joke, quoting someone, reading it from a Mark Twain novel — you DON’T say this word.

  13. Mgsota says:

    I was on a business trip recently with two men (both of Hispanic descent) and we were driving back to the hotel after a long day. I was in control of the music and was playing some hits from my generation (we actually are all the same age) like Ain’t Nuthin But A G Thang, Hypnotize, etc. And one of the guys requested a song from N.W.A. The other guy didn’t know who it was and when he was told N.W.A, he said “Northwest Arkansas?” (that’s the area him and I live in called NWA for short) and the other guy (from Cali) said “no, n-word with attitude” and he said the word. I was shocked and stunned and spent the rest of the drive home contemplating if I should say something. I’m a white woman married to a black man and I HATE THAT WORD, it disgusts me. And I am very vocal and somewhat aggressive (I call it passionate) against racism. I’ve gotten into yelling matches at work about Black Lives Matter and white supermacist Donald Trump. But I didn’t know what to do. I think highly of this guy, he’s intelligent and kind and I don’t think he’s a racist….and he knows I’m married to a black guy. I think he was just stating the word because that’s what the N in N.W.A means. BUT I’m in the mind set that you shouldn’t say it. Period. I ended up not saying anything. And I’m still thinking about it.

    • Veronica S. says:

      You know, one of my college professors is having us do “To Kill a Mockingbird” for a class, which surprised me because most of us have covered it in high school. But honestly, after rereading it two decades later, I can see why she chose it. Because the n-word is EVERYWHERE in it. It’s not just about how a racist system destroys the life of an innocent black man. It’s how racism just infiltrated all aspects of American society, how these people were degraded constantly in everyday life, through language, behavior, and social interaction. Even the beloved white characters in the novels are some level of racist or another, and it’s prescient to the current situation in America because so many white people are acting shocked at Trump’s triumphs and base, but…this isn’t something new. It’s always been there.

      The book takes place, what? 50-60 years ago? There are people still alive who dealt with that level of casual racism. It’s a reminder to those us who have been privileged enough not to experience that side of America just how evil and cruel parts of our history are. So even if context does matter to the degree of the social violation, Viggo absolutely needs to be taken to task for it. He needs to realize that the n-word isn’t “history” for a lot of people in this country. It’s a contemporary reality for black Americans.

    • Caela says:

      I grew up listening to rap music from a very young age and it makes me cringe to think that I used to sing along to a lot of those songs and use the n-word singing. Even now sometimes I have to remind myself if I’m listening or singing to an old favourite. When you’re young and mostly white/white you don’t understand, and then you grow up and (hopefully) realise you should change.

    • kgeo says:

      Also from NWA, I think Northwest Arkansas every time I hear it.

  14. peachy..... says:

    It is not okay for anyone, Black, White or purple, to use the n-word. The n-word is not just a word it is a mindset. It represents a way of life, a system in which Black people have been hunted, maimed and killed. I am Black and I have never agreed to anyone using that word. That people are looking to the entertainment industry, and Black people within in it, as if they speak for ALL Black people with respect to anything affecting us as a people is ridiculous. The American entertainment industry does not speak for me or any one of the billions of people of African descent on this earth today. Just trying to normalize a word that has equaled death to Black people at the hands of white people.

  15. Valerie says:

    Um. Holy shit.

  16. Patty says:

    I’m black and I think the whole thing is silly. Context does matter! There’s a huge difference between saying it used to be commonplace to hear the word n****** and now it’s not acceptable and calling a black person the word on the street because you want a reaction or just a racist douchebag. Or trying to say it as gleefully as you can at a rap concert because you think it’s cute.

    There are books with the word in the title, magazine articles, etc – academic articles. There are going to be times when the word can be used within a certain context and personally as black person I don’t have a problem with it but I’m speaking just for myself.

    • BB says:

      To me it’s more about the level of comfort. Why does he feel comfortable saying it in any context? I don’t. I don’t think any white person should. What does he lose by saying “the n-word” instead of the actual word?

  17. Marty says:

    To be honest I’m angrier about him saying people don’t use the the n-word anymore, more than him actually saying “n****r”. Like, the ignornce is appalling. If he can’t talk about racism in this country accurately, he certainly has no business saying the n-word no matter what the context is.

    • Patty says:

      I think he was saying it’s not socially acceptable to use it. It wasn’t too long away that the word was ridiculously commonplace. And now while the word is still used; it’s not socially acceptable or commonplace publicly.

      • hunter says:

        As a white American woman from the pacific northwest (Washington/Oregon region), I feel like the n-word has NEVER been acceptable for use in the North but I know it was casually used in the South.

        Perhaps in areas that received more relocation from the South after the Civil War (midwest, northeast) it was more common than in the northwest.

  18. themummy says:


  19. Jo says:

    Never use the word. Easy.
    Hard: trying to teach your white kids, who listen to rap 24/7 that it’s not ok, ever.

    • Alyssa MacRay says:

      I am a Black woman married to a White man and we have a son. I listen to a very wide range of music, though my primary choice is alternative, classic punk, and new wave. I happen to also love some hip-hop and rap artists. Drake is one. We are currently trying to find a middle ground to explain to our son that while Drake, for instance, saying it in one of his songs is for him to say (and maybe even use with his personal friends) it is not for my son to say, it is certainly not for his dad to say and I don’t say it. It is a tough call because there are so many nuances there that are tough for kids to handle these days.

      I foolishly thought when I was growing up in the 80s that by the time I had kids this discussion would be over.

      • Interdependent says:

        True. This latest round of culture wars has me feeling like it’s the early 90s again. And I’m like ‘Ugh I thought we’d been through this already” So effing tedious.

  20. Somegirl says:

    I don’t know what he was thinking. I’m thinking this might be in part him not being from the US and having only a more academic understanding of how the word is used here without truly, fully understanding the full cultural weight behind it. Also, from the sounds of the movie, I’m thinking it might have been used in the dialogue on set a lot, and he got used to hearing it and discussing it in those contexts and very stupidly didn’t realize that doesn’t translate to a full panel discussion. Basically I don’t think he had bad intentions but he showed he’s not as aware as he meant to seem and made a dumb choice that I hope wasn’t too hurtful to his black colleagues- assuming they know him and his intentions better than we do after working with him- but surely was uncomfortable for them.

  21. Bc says:

    I cant believe some of you are here justifying his use of the word. He was not acting so it was not “in context”. Absolutely disgusting. Shame on you.

  22. Madrid says:

    There is a reason for the familiarity”of that word. Viggo is spanish speaker, I think he even lives now in Spain. Well, We use that word meaning black color, and it means absolutely nothing else in Spanish. We dont have other word for black. Its purely descriptive of a color in our language.

  23. Chef Grace says:

    Growing up in the south in the 1960′ s I will swear every white person just allowed the n word to roll on out of their mouths and didn’t bat an eye. My grand mother’s best friend, a sweet Hispanic lady, who lived across the road would refer to blacks as n****** and could not understand what was so offensive about it.
    I think maybe Vigo felt because he made such a movie perhaps he could speak out to make his point. It was not a good idea and so wrong. Poor dude gotta learn. 👎

  24. Justwastingtime says:

    I think, as a white person, the ONLY time it’s appropriate is when you are quoting it (in an email) to the fourth grade teacher of your black kid after her white classmate used the word in front of her. I wanted to put the teacher on notice that we were not going to be having a polite conversation about this – that we were furious, and that we expected significant consequences. (It worked btw).

  25. DesertReal says:

    Et tu, Aragorn?

  26. Nikki. says:

    Rappers stop saying it too. Please and thank you. Viggo I forgive you. XD