Nee­son and Lan­des­man take new slant on scan­dal

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Irish ac­tor Liam Nee­son and Amer­i­can writer/direc­tor Peter Lan­des­man come from dif­fer­ent worlds, but they are of like minds in how they wanted to tell the “Deep Throat” ver­sion of the Water­gate story.

Nee­son, 65, has been an ac­tor for nearly four decades but his films have mostly been in the fan­tasy and ad­ven­ture realms, rarely po­lit­i­cal ones.

Lan­des­man, 52, is a jour­nal­ist and film­maker who made trau­matic Amer­i­can his­tory his cin­e­matic spe­cialty. Park­land, his 2013 de­but, went into the Dal­las hos­pi­tal where JFK breathed his last breath. Con­cus­sion, re­leased in 2015, starred Will Smith as the doc­tor who con­tro­ver­sially found links be­tween NFL play­ers and chronic head in­juries.

Now Nee­son and Lan­des­man have com­bined for Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, the story of the top FBI G-man (a short form of Gov­ern­ment Man, of­ten used as a term for gov­ern­ment agents) who se­cretly helped jour­nal­ists Bob Wood­ward and Carl Bern­stein ex­pose the Richard Nixon White House dur­ing the Water­gate scan­dal of the 1970s.

Nee­son plays Felt, alias Deep Throat, who kept his covert iden­tity se­cret for decades, fi­nally com­ing out of the shad­ows in 2005, three years be­fore his death at age 95. Lan­des­man wrote and di­rected the film, adapt­ing Felt’s pub­lished mem­oirs. The film also cov­ers his per­sonal life, in­clud­ing a trou­bled mar­riage (Diane Lane plays his wife).

It seems you both wanted to show more of what hap­pened inside FBI ranks rather than the clan­des­tine park­ing garage meet­ings.

Lan­des­man: It wasn’t avoid­ance. I was telling the story of Felt, through his prism and his sub­jec­tiv­ity. And as seen through that win­dow, I think the film rep­re­sents its en­tirety. Wood­ward was just one of four re­porters Felt was talk­ing to; he was ma­nip­u­lat­ing them all with dif­fer­ent pieces of in­for­ma­tion. Light­ing fuses and see­ing which bomb goes off first. He was re­ally

I think early on he was a prag­ma­tist. I think as a hu­man be­ing, he was very pri­vate; the G-man’s G-man. Liam Nee­son on Mark Felt

kind of a mas­ter pup­peteer in that sense. And I was also in­ter­ested in the com­plex­ity of his mo­ti­va­tions as a man, as a hus­band and as a fa­ther.

Nee­son: I thought it was lovely that Peter cast a young Bri­tish ac­tor (Ju­lian Mor­ris) as Bob Wood­ward. I love the fact he’s kind of young — he’s al­most a kid. Bob Wood­ward was 29 when he met Felt, and I loved that fact that he’s just this lit­tle young kid ea­ger for this news.

Do you think Felt was act­ing as an ide­al­ist or a prag­ma­tist?

Nee­son: I think early on he was a prag­ma­tist. I think as a hu­man be­ing, he was very pri­vate, the G-man’s G-man. I also think he was hurt and out­raged when he was over­looked for pro­mo­tion when J. Edgar Hoover died, and they brought in a guy who was a sub­ma­rine com­man­der in the Sec­ond World War. That may have pro­voked him to start leak­ing stuff to Bob Wood­ward, but then when Felt saw the big­ger pic­ture of what was hap­pen­ing, the level of cor­rup­tion and where it was go­ing, he felt “I’ve got to see this through.” The fu­ture of the FBI — and pos­si­bly the fu­ture of the coun­try — was at stake. And then he be­came heroic.

Lan­des­man: I think Felt had an ide­o­log­i­cal be­lief sys­tem of the bu­reau as a kind of mytho­log­i­cal de­fence, the last line of de­fence. He loved Elliot Ness and he loved that con­cept of him­self as a G-man. So there is a kind of ide­al­ism there about good and evil, white hat and black hat, that ul­ti­mately with all the other mo­ti­va­tions at the core was driv­ing him.

Liam, what’s your ul­ti­mate take on the man be­hind the Deep Throat leg­end?

Nee­son: He was quite re­mark­able by any stan­dards. This whole per­sonal side of his life with his wife — Bob Wood­ward, cor­rect me if I’m wrong, knew noth­ing about that. He also knew noth­ing about Felt’s daugh­ter run­ning away and Felt try­ing to find her. Bob Wood­ward knew noth­ing about that. So Felt was able to com­part­men­tal­ize his life — he was trained that way, too, of course. It’s why he was such a suc­cess­ful FBI agent, from the Sec­ond World War on.

CoN­trib­uted; the AssoCiAted Press

Liam Nee­son makes a rare visit to the po­lit­i­cal world by play­ing FBI agent Mark Felt, in­set, in Mark Felt: The Man Who Took Down the White House.

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