Capone spends 11 minutes with Liam Neeson and is quite TAKEN with him!!!
Published at: Jan. 26, 2009, 8:59 p.m. CST by headgeek
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
It's rare when I will interview someone about a film that the studio has yet to show me. So rare, in fact, that I can think of maybe two other times I've done it in my 10-plus years with AICN, excluding Comic-Con, that I've done it. That being said, the studio releasing the movie TAKEN in America (that would be Fox, for those of you keeping score) are actually showing critics this film in time for review, so they aren't hiding the movie from me or anyone else (as of this writing, I've already seen it, just not in time for this interview). In fact, they couldn't if they wanted to. During the past year, the Luc Besson-written and -produced TAKEN has been opening country by country across the world and is finally landing on U.S. shores this weekend.
But my rule about interviewing someone whose new film I haven't seen yet is simple: I'll ask one or two questions about the new film and then ask whatever the hell I want. When I interviewed Kal Penn a few years back for VAN WILDER 2, we spent most of our time talking about THE NAMESAKE, a film both he and I cared about a whole lot more. While talking to Antoine Fuqua while he was still in the finals stages of finishing up SHOOTER, we ended up going film by film through his career, and he was exceptionally open about conflicts he'd had with various studios trying to get his films completed. Sometimes saying yes to an interview you'd be inclined to blow off gets you the interview you actually want.
Still, the interview I want to do with Liam Neeson one day will probably be a bit longer than 11 minutes, but I took the short time I had to talk to focus less on TAKEN specifically and more on what it's like to work in a Besson production. Then I spent the rest of the interview talking about some really fascinating upcoming projects he's got coming up, including the ever-elusive LINCOLN with Steven Spielberg, a just-announced film with director Atom Egoyan, and voice work he did recently for the most anticipated animated film of 2009, at least in my book. Perhaps a more substantial conversation between the two of us may happen one day, but I think I hit up the man up for some pretty tasty bits of information. Enjoy these 11 minutes with Liam Neeson…
Liam Neeson: Hello.
Capone: Hello, Liam. How are you?
LN: Very good, thanks.
Capone: Obviously, I have not seen the film [TAKEN] yet…
LN: Oh, you haven’t?
Capone: …but, I feel like I’ve seen pieces of it for about a year now, because the trailer has been bouncing around, at least in this country, for the last year. And, I know that the film has opened sort of piecemeal throughout the rest of the world.
LN: I know. It’s the most peculiar release pattern.
Capone: I’m not going to bore you with questions about release strategies, but…I feel like I kind of get the gist of it. It’s a kidnapping scenario with your character's daughter, and your character seems, perhaps, uniquely qualified to handle the situation, more than the kidnappers realize?
Capone: Can you sort of fill me in on a little more detail?
LN: Well, he’s a father, and he’s, perhaps, a bit too overprotective of his 17-year-old daughter. And, you find out that he’s walked away from a job. He’s kind of a covert government operative, I suppose. He wants to be closer to his kids--he's a divorced father--because in her formative years, he wasn’t there. He was behind enemy lines somewhere, doing this covert stuff. And, so the kid plans with their mom that she wants to go over to Europe for a bit of freedom with her girlfriend, and I’m totally against it, in a very paranoid way. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I give her permission to go over, and she promptly gets kidnapped. And, she’s just left the airport in Paris, and I subsequently find out I’ve got four days to find her. So, in that four days, you discover my character does have this set of skills he employs.
Capone: I am familiar with DISTRICT 13, [director] Pierre Morel’s last film. I love that film. And pretty much anything [writer/producer] Luc Besson gets his hands on, I want to see.
LN: Me, too, actually.
Capone: His productions have a signature high-energy, controlled-chaos quality to them. What is different about working with that group on a film, as opposed to some of the other people you’ve worked with?
LN: Their tastes and their level of working. And, of course, they’re committed to an extraordinary degree, and also, their youth. I mean, Luc has these young acolytes that come up through the ranks, and he gives them films to do. And, Pierre is certainly one of those. He is also a highly trained D.P. and also a camera operator. So, it was first time I was working with a director who hand held every shot, every scene, and was also my director. It was a very, very unique experience, being with this French crew that had a lot of girls working on it, too, which was terrific. I loved that energy, that it’s not just a male bastion, you know. Just the level of working, and the pace was pretty extraordinary.
Capone: Were there any sort of special fight-training preparations?
LN: Oh, God! I mean, I keep fairly fit as a rule, but I certainly had to up the ante with this one. I spent about three, four weeks with my fight choreographer, Olivier Schneider is his name. He’s a Parisian. And, I learned these basic techniques for some of these martial arts skills. I think we have seven fights in the whole film. There was actually learning the choreography and, then, rehearsing it and re-rehearsing it until it became sort of second nature, you know. So, it was pretty intense. And, we would do that in the mornings, or sometimes in the evenings when we wrapped, and certainly weekends. So, I slept very well.
Capone: But, you’ve been through this sort of training before, though, even in fairly recent years, for some of the things that you’ve done.
LN: I’ve done it, yeah, certainly for BATMAN BEGINS and STAR WARS, but this is really sort of hand-to-hand combat stuff, you know. And, there’s some gun activity to driving cars at incredibly fast pace, which I always wanted to do. [laughs]
Capone: Right, right. I think people don’t realize that you have a fairly well-balanced body of work between the more high-drama and action-oriented work throughout your career.
LN: Well, I try to sort of mix it up. I just have a fear of being pigeonholed too much. And, for this one, I wouldn’t be obvious casting for this, but it was sent to me, and I met with Luc. And, he liked me, and I’d always liked him. And, it was push came to shove, and then it was, like, Okay, do you want to do this? And, I said, “I’ll do it under one condition…that I do all my own fights.” And, he says, “Well, I insist on that.” “Well, great, we’re on the same page.” But, obviously, there are a couple of extreme stunts that my wonderful stunt double, Mark Vanselow his name is, he did those. But, I’m very proud of the fact that I did all of the fights myself.
Capone: That’s impressive. I’m sure that a question you’ve been getting a lot, at least today is about LINCOLN, and where you are with that. But, before I ask you that, I saw that you do a voice in the new [Hayao] Miyazaki film [PONYO ON THE CLIFF] as well.
LN: Yes, that’s right. We finished that just before Christmas, actually.
Capone: And so, that means that you’ve seen it. My envy knows no bounds.
LN: No, I haven’t seen it…No, I beg pardon. I’m sorry, I did see the Japanese version, yes, yes. I’m so sorry.
Capone: At least among Westerners, that's a unique thing to have seen already. You’ve actually seen this film.
LN: I know. It’s a strange, beautiful, kind of weird fairy tale as only he can do, you know?
Capone: Of course. I own every one of his films, so I’m envious that I’m speaking to someone who has actually seen the new one who speaks English.
LN: Well, I think you’re in for a treat, you know. Do you know when it’s coming out? Have you heard?
Capone: I thought I'd heard something about his summer. I don't know if that's official. So, yeah, from “The Simpsons” to Miyazaki, that’s quite a leap in a couple of years for you.
LN: [laughs] And I’ve done a couple of CHRONICLES OF NARNIAs to put in there as well.
Capone: Yeah, that’s true, that’s true. So, LINCOLN. Where are we with LINCOLN?
LN: It’s quote–unquote from Steven [Spielberg] last night [at the Golden Globe Awards]…Apparently, when he was asked, he said, “It’s in the works.”
Capone: In the works, okay. But, he still hasn’t even said whether it’s his next film, or not?
LN: No. I think it’s just in the works. He’ll do it sometime.
Capone: I remember reading maybe two years ago that you were doing an intense amount of research on Lincoln. Is that pretty common for you, once you find out you’re attached to something. You just sort of jump into it, whether it’s the next thing or not?
LN: Well, you can imagine with a figure like that, there’s any amount of research and reading to do, you know. I mean, at the moment, there are over 2,000 books written on Abraham Lincoln. And, this being the bicentennial [of his birth] year, one comes out every month, it seems, you know. So, that’s a continual process. And, it’s always on my bedside table, something about Abraham Lincoln.
Capone: I also saw your name attached to a remake of LE CIRCLE ROUGE, but I think that's old news.Is that accurate?
LN: You know, that’s been around for some time. It kind of all fell apart just over a year ago. I don’t think they managed to get the script right, there were budgetary reasons, but I’m not attached to it. I don’t think anybody is.
Capone: Okay. And film I know you are attached to, because it was just announced the other day, is the new Atom Egoyan film CHLOE.
LN: Yes, that’s for February. Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, myself, and we start shooting in Toronto. I believe on the 23rd of February, we start.
Capone: Who is your character in that?
LN: Julianne and I are married. I am a professor of music, and Julianne is a well-to-do gynecologist. So, we’re two working, married professionals. And, there’s a certain strain on the marriage, I’ll put it that way. And, then, Amanda enters into the fray, as a mysterious sort of creature. But, it’s very much Atom Egoyan territory, you know.
Capone: I’m a huge fan of his, yeah, for sure.
LN: Yeah, me too. Yeah, he does…he gives certain subject matters a different, slight slant.
Capone: Is there a lot of chronology dancing in this one, too, or is it straightforward?
LN: No, no. Not this time out.
Capone: Well, I’ve been promised that they’ll show me TAKEN any day now, so I’m looking forward to seeing it.
Capone: And, I appreciate talking to you, thanks.
LN: Thank you. Take care.