During a Film Independent Q&A for the movie Wednesday night, the actor, who was seated next to co-star Mahershala Ali, participated in a discussion about race in America and the ways in which the conversation has progressed since the 1960s.
"For instance, no one says n----r anymore," Mortensen said.
Mortensen's controversial comment went viral after Film Independent member Dick Schulz tweeted about the incident.
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. #movies
Mortensen apologized for using the word and vowed to never say it again. "The Lord of the Rings" star said that he "casually" utilized the term while filming "Green Book." The drama, which has been generating Oscar buzz, tells the true story of an Italian-American bouncer Tony Lip (Mortensen) who becomes the driver for an African-American pianist Don Shirley (Ali) during the 1960s in the South.
"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," Mortensen said in the statement. "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," he continued. "It is a beautiful, profound movie story that I am very proud to be a part of."