Liam Neeson has issued a statement apologizing for saying he once sought to take revenge on a random “black man” following the brutal rape of a close friend some 40 years ago.

In February, the Irish actor was promoting the film Cold Pursuit which has a core theme of revenge, when he recalled an incident in which a friend told him she had been raped by a man who was black. In the interview, Neeson revealed that, feeling angered following his friend's painful revelation, he later walked through neighborhoods with a heavy stick at the time “hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could . . . kill him.”

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Neeson said he quickly felt ashamed by his behavior and sought help from a priest.

Neeson’s comments caused an outcry and the celebrity red carpet portion of the New York premiere of Cold Pursuit was subsequently canceled. The film also performed poorly a the box office, The Irish Times reports.

On Friday, the 66-year-old actor issued a statement saying he had several weeks to reflect on his words and speak with people who were hurt by them.

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“What I failed to realize is that this is not about justifying my anger all those years ago, it is also about the impact my words have today,” he said.

“Although the comments I made do not reflect, in any way, my true feelings nor me, they were hurtful and divisive. I profoundly apologize.”

Irish actor Liam Neeson.Getty Images