Water­gate drama turned un­ex­pect­edly timely

The Province - - ENTERTAINMENT - — Chris Knight

Liam Nee­son has an un­usual re­ac­tion when he’s asked to star in a movie. His first thought is: Who would be bet­ter at this than me?

So when writer/di­rec­tor Peter Lan­des­man ap­proached him to play the ti­tle role in Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, he im­me­di­ately thought of Ed Har­ris.

“And then I might watch a cou­ple of Ed’s films. And I think: Ah, there’s some­thing there that I can use.”

But would Har­ris have been a bet­ter Felt? “That would have been a good idea,” jokes Lan­des­man.

The two are speak­ing at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, where Mark Felt had its world pre­miere in Septem­ber. The film had been in the works for more than 10 years, ever since the for­mer FBI as­so­ciate di­rec­tor pub­lished his 2006 au­to­bi­og­ra­phy A G-Man’s Life, shortly af­ter re­veal­ing he had been The Wash­ing­ton Post’s “Deep Throat” source dur­ing the Water­gate scan­dal.

But the film’s re­lease could not have been more timely. In May, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump fired FBI di­rec­tor James Comey over his in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

“It is a co­in­ci­dence, which is some­thing you have no con­trol over,” Lan­des­man says. “When Liam and I first sat down and talked about it ... Trump was the court jester of New York, which is where I grew up. I never imag­ined ...” he trails off.

But he says the themes of in­tegrity fight­ing cor­rup­tion are al­ways with us. “Hu­man be­hav­iour does not change,” he says. “Those dy­nam­ics live in ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion, ev­ery gov­ern­ment on the planet, within fam­i­lies, within Hol­ly­wood, within jour­nal­ism and news­pa­pers.” Even so, “the fact that we’re see­ing it now when this movie is com­ing out is su­per­nat­u­ral, I have to say.”

In ad­di­tion to scour­ing the films of Ed Har­ris, Nee­son watched footage of Felt, who died in 2008. “I was very taken with the fact that he was a debonair, charm­ing man,” Nee­son says. “But charm­ing just up to a point. Sud­denly a veil would come down and you couldn’t read him. And I found that fas­ci­nat­ing as an ac­tor. I thought: I look noth­ing like him, I will sound noth­ing like him, but I will try to give an essence of the man.”

He was also re­lieved at the change of pace in play­ing a bu­reau­crat, given his re­cent run of ac­tion-hero roles. “It was great to not have any fight re­hearsals,” he says with a grin.

Liam Nee­son was re­lieved at the change of pace in play­ing a bu­reau­crat, for­mer FBI as­so­ciate di­rec­tor Mark Felt.

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