Non- stop action for Liam
Unlikely action hero Liam Neeson tells Neala Johnson about maintaining his tough guy persona
SIX years ago, when Taken was released, you said you loved the physicality of it and thought you might squeeze in one more action film before you got too old. As it turns out, you’ve squeezed in quite a few more!
We’ve done one or two, it’s true. I don’t know what to say. Hollywood seems to have found another slot for me. They’re throwing action scripts my way and I read them and see the hero is 33- 34 years of age, then when I raise an objection and say, “You’ve sent it to the wrong actor,” the script comes back and the hero is in his 50s ( laughs). So the magic of Hollywood, it changes.
What’s keeping you interested in that kind of film?
I still see them all as different characters. I know they’re bracketed under “action hero” or whatnot, but they’re all different to me. Certainly with this new one, Non- Stop, it’s a much more interesting guy because he’s an alcoholic, he’s taking literally one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. That’s more interesting to play than the super- clean superhero – that’s boring, let’s face it.
How’s your body coping with all this action?
The body’s holding up. I’ve seriously gone back to the gym again. I hit a wall after the first Taken, Taken, I couldn’t face a gymnasium again, so I tried to alter my workout regime by power- walking and stuff. Now I’ve got back into the gym again, so I’ve gone past the wall. But I’m certainly not into the 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger look. I’m not a fan of that look at all. It’s just a burden to keep fairly physically fit, you know, because doing any film requires stamina, especially if you’re playing the lead – you have to set an example, come to work on time, be ready and willing and able.
Speaking of stamina, apparently you recently admitted to being a member of the mile high club.
Why is it the press always picks up on something like that? I can tell you now, it’s total bulls---. I don’t know where it came from.
I’m being very, very honest with you. I’ve never joined the mile high club. I’ve no desire to join it – I know the size of those toilets only too well ( laughs). No, no, that’s too much like hard work.
Maybe this is another case of someone mistaking you for your mate Ralph Fiennes?
Oh, it could be actually ( laughs).
There’s an intense fight in one of those tiny aeroplane toilets in Non- Stop. What kind of preparation goes into a scene like that?
Quite a bit, because it’s a very contained space. It was all shot out of sequence, which meant that we had to really have our act together as regards to learning that dance, which is basically what a fight is. I was very fortunate to have a pal of mine that I’ve worked with on a couple of movies, who is actively a special forces soldier and on his days off he trains air marshals. He helped us work on that fight. It is based on reality, it’s not going into martial arts moments; they’re moves that you would do in a confined space to try and disarm a person.
When you started acting, did you harbour any dreams to be the guy who saves the day?
Maybe as a kid. It was usually always westerns I saw as a boy, back home in Ireland, at the matinees on Saturday. That’s the great thing about cinema at that age: you see these western heroes and they were like great mythological gods. But when I became an actor my wish fulfilment would have been to be in the National Theatre of Great Britain or maybe the Royal Shakespeare Company, and that was it. I never thought I’d get into movies at all. I just didn’t see that was possible in Ireland, you know?
So when you look back at what you have managed to do, does it come down to luck or hard work?
It’s a bit of all that. I’ve done 65 films, I just can’t believe that. Of course lady luck plays a huge part in it, of course it does. But at the same time, you create your own luck. And I certainly did that. I always tried to be poised and be ready for whatever might come.
As a kid who loved westerns, you must have lived out a fantasy with one of your other films coming up this year, A Million
Ways to Die in the West.
That was great. I’d done a western before with Pierce Brosnan for Mel Gibson’s company, called Seraphim Falls, which we shot in Santa Fe about 10 years ago. So it was great to get a chance to a) go back to Santa Fe again and b) get in the saddle again ( laughs). And to have Charlize Theron as my wife – my god, it doesn’t get any better than that.
Apart from signing on for Taken 3, you’re also getting ready to make another film with Martin Scorsese this year.
Yeah, we’re doing a film called Silence, about the Jesuits trying to bring Christianity into Japan in the 1600s. I’m about to start getting into the research for that, which is quite fascinating.
That will put some different muscles to use.
Flexing a few different muscles, yup. Maybe I’ll have to go back into my Old Irish Catholicism and flex those ones. I think you’re right, it could be. I better watch myself!