Nee­son takes on Is­tan­bul

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

LIAM Nee­son re­turns in his lat­est film, Taken 2, as Bryan Mills, a pro­tec­tive fa­ther who just hap­pens to be a re­tired CIA agent with a ‘‘very par­tic­u­lar set of skills’’.

The ac­tor, 60, has played, as he says him­self ‘‘Michael Collins, Schindler, Zeus and a Jedi’’, but he was sur­prised to find him­self play­ing Bryan again.

Since the suc­cess of Taken – one of the most suc­cess­ful French-made films ever re­leased in the US – Nee­son has found a resur­gence in his ca­reer and fans have been cry­ing out for a se­quel.

Hav­ing won le­gions of ad­mir­ers through his roles in films such as Schindler’s List and Star Wars: Episode I, and cap­tur­ing women’s hearts as a griev­ing widow in Love Ac­tu­ally, now Nee­son is an ac­tion hero.

But the Ir­ish ac­tor ad­mits, de­spite his ad­mi­ra­tion for screen­writer Luc Bes­son, he never even expected the first film to be such a hit. ‘‘We were all pleas­antly sur­prised.’’ Af­ter the film was re­leased in France to an av­er­age re­cep­tion, Nee­son thought he’d heard the last of it. He says his neph­ews rang him up and told him they’d down­loaded it on the in­ter­net.

‘‘I re­mem­ber think­ing, well that’s the end of that, it’s fin­ished . . . it will dis­ap­pear into DVD land,’’ he says.

But the film as re­leased in the US and the UK in 2009 and was a smash hit.

Since his first big screen role play­ing Je­sus Christ in Pil­grim’s Progress in 1977, Nee­son has had a pro­lific act­ing ca­reer, mak­ing more than 70 films – six in the past year alone.

Trag­i­cally wid­owed when wife Natasha Richard­son was killed in a ski­ing ac­ci­dent in 2009, the ac­tor was left to bring up their two young sons alone at their home in New York.

He also threw him­self into work, but says it was the idea of a trip to Paris that first at­tracted him to Taken.

‘‘There was some­thing about the story that was dead sim­ple, plus there was a chance to do all this phys­i­cal stuff, which I loved do­ing, you know.

‘‘And it was three months in Paris, which isn’t too shabby,’’ he says.

Taken fans have been beg­ging for a se­quel since, but Nee­son says it took time for him to come around to the idea.

Then he got the script set in Is­tan­bul, with Mag­gie Grace and Famke Janssen re­turn­ing more promi­nently as Bryan’s daugh­ter and ex-wife. Nee­son was fi­nally con­vinced. Once again, an­other ex­otic lo­ca­tion was part of the at­trac­tion. But film­ing car chases, shoot-outs and ex­plo­sions in the nar­row, wind­ing streets of Is­tan­bul was quite a chal­lenge. ‘‘It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary city,’’ he says. ‘‘But a lot of the streets we shot in, which are thou­sands of years old, were as wide as this room, with shops on ei­ther side and mer­chants sell­ing their wares, and you’re do­ing a car chase at 70 miles an hour and peo­ple are say­ing, ‘No, no, no, I’m not clos­ing my shop. You do your movie and I sell my wares’.

‘‘So there’s peo­ple cross­ing the road all the time! No­body was hurt at all, but it added an ex­oti­cism to the film.’’

Be­ing cast as an ac­tion hero when you’re 60 is not as easy as Nee­son makes it look. With the suc­cess of other films such as The Ex­pend­ables mean­ing age­ing ac­tion stars are dom­i­nat­ing the box of­fice, is 60 the new 20?

‘‘Sixty is the new 40, that’s for sure,’’ Nee­son says, smil­ing.

opens to­day.

Liam Nee­son, pic­tured in a scene shot in the streets of Is­tan­bul, re­turns as Bryan Mills in

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