Liz Braun talks to Liam Nee­son about his timely new Water­gate film and role

24 Hours Toronto - - Front page - LIZ BRAUN

From As­lan to Zeus, Liam Nee­son has that grav­i­tas thing sewn up.

You be­lieve the ac­tor as a Jedi Mas­ter, leg­endary Ir­ish revo­lu­tion­ary, en­emy of Bat­man or re­tired CIA agent.

Nee­son, 65, plays se­ri­ous and mys­te­ri­ous like no­body’s busi­ness.

So who bet­ter to play spe­cial agent Mark Felt, keeper of im­por­tant Amer­i­can se­crets?

Felt was an FBI hon­cho privy to in­sider po­lit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion, all of which he du­ti­fully pro­tected — un­til such time as the U.S. govern­ment be­trayed its own peo­ple.

Felt re­vealed de­tails of the Water­gate scan­dal to re­porters Bob Wood­ward and Carl Bern­stein of the Wash­ing­ton

Post. Known only as ‘Deep Throat’ at the time, Felt gave the Post many of the dirty lit­tle se­crets of a cor­rupt and ve­nal ad­min­is­tra­tion, in­for­ma­tion that led to U.S. Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon’s res­ig­na­tion in 1974.

No one knew Felt was Deep Throat un­til 2005.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House is a drama from di­rec­tor Peter Lan­des­man (Con­cus­sion). Diane Lane, Tony Gold­wyn, Mar­ton Csokas and Josh Lu­cas co-star with Nee­son in the movie, which opens Fri­day.

Nee­son has been on movie au­di­ences’ radar since the late 1980s when he ap­peared in such films as The Mis­sion,

Dark­man and The Dead Pool. Schindler’s List made the Ir­ish ac­tor a movie star in 1993. His re­sume in­cludes such films as Michael Collins, Les Mis­er­ables, Star Wars: Episode I — The Phan­tom Men­ace, Gangs of New York, Kin­sey, The Dark Knight Rises

and Si­lence, among many oth­ers.

Start­ing in 2008, the Taken fran­chise also gave Nee­son a whole new chap­ter as an ac­tion hero. (And de­spite re­cent an­nounce­ments that Nee­son’s ac­tion days are over, he stars in at least three as­s­kick­ing fea­tures next year.)

We spoke to Nee­son when he was in Toronto for TIFF.

Did you have an opin­ion about Water­gate be­fore mak­ing this movie?

I knew very lit­tle about, other than the broad out­line, what Water­gate was.

I was brought up in Ire­land and we were go­ing through our own trou­bles at the time. So Water­gate was very low on my totem pole of life’s ex­is­tence.

Do you con­sider Mark Felt to be heroic?

I ad­mire him. I don’t think he was ini­tially mo­ti­vated by an act of hero­ism. I think he was crushed that he didn’t get Hoover’s (FBI) job when Hoover died. He was a com­mit­ted FBI guy for 30 years. And then the White House ad­min­is­tra­tion brought in Pa­trick Gray, who was a sub­ma­rine com­man­der! He had noth­ing to do with the FBI! So I think Felt and his co­horts were hurt and in­sulted by that … I learned re­cently that Felt and Bob Wood­ward only met six or seven times in that un­der­ground garage. Wood­ward knew noth­ing about Felt’s per­sonal life … that says some­thing about Felt be­ing able to com­part­men­tal­ize his life.

Was it dif­fi­cult to play some­one as guarded as Mark Felt?

What I did like about the guy, as a per­former, I like to think I’m usu­ally pretty emo­tive, and Mark Felt was al­most un­read­able, pro­fes­sion­ally. He had a screen over him … There’s an in­ter­view I saw with Felt, I think it was Meet the Press, and he was de­fend­ing the FBI and he did it in a charming way, but you could not read what was go­ing on in his head. And he had this mane of sil­ver hair, re­ally beau­ti­ful. And I thought, ‘He’s re­ally proud of that hair!’ And proud of his suits, and I as­sumed he had good foot- wear. So I started by get­ting a good wig made, and in­cred­i­bly good footwear and suits made, so that was some­place to start build­ing.

This is a movie about a thor­oughly cor­rupt ad­min­is­tra­tion — weirdly con­tem­po­rary, wouldn’t you say?

At the time we made it, we didn’t know Don­ald Trump was go­ing to be elected. Cer­tainly, when Water­gate was over and done with, and when Ger­ald Ford par­doned Richard Nixon — and I kind of agreed he had to, Amer­ica had had enough... Any­way, see­ing Water­gate com­pletely fin­ished, it was stag­ger­ing in its im­pact for the idea of democ­racy, and what was at stake. And hav­ing the free­dom of the press, with these two neo­phyte re­porters, just chip­ping away at stuff.

Has your fan base changed since you be­came an ac­tion hero?

Look, the ac­tion stuff, that wasn’t planned. (Laughs) It was great fun to do, and great to do all that stuff, and at the age of 65 they’re still of­fer­ing me stuff where I’m beat­ing guys up and such. But it was nice to do this Felt thing, and Scors­ese’s film, Si­lence, which was very much a man trou­bled about his faith … But yes, some­times it hap­pens: the Taken crowd. And if they ask for a photo (flexes men­ac­ingly) I al­ways do this!

How did you like work­ing with Diane Lane?

Diane is a great ac­tress, theatre trained, which I love. As I am my­self. There’s a line you can just cut through some­thing when you’re with a theatre ac­tor. Josh (Lu­cas) too, and Tony Gold­wyn. Diane’s ter­rific. She’s a great ac­tor. And she has a butt like a 20-year-old! (Laughs) Please tell her I said that.

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