Liam Neeson in Dubai interview

Irish actor talks about action movies, theatre and why he will never direct

Interview, Hot seat

The Irish actor talks action movies at 62 and Taken 3.

What attracted you to the role of Bryan Mills in the Taken films?
With the first film, it was the physicality of it. I was 54 years old and I thought I wouldn’t be offered it. I thought it was a very simple story and I got a chance to do all this fighting. I don’t think Bryan has evolved as a character in Taken 3. He’s there to protect his daughter. Because I love Maggie Grace, it’s not a big leap of fantasy to see myself fight for her. I remember seeing her screen test before we shot the first film and I said to myself, I want to be her father.

What do you say to the notion that action films such as Taken 3 glorify violence?
I don’t think they do. I think it’s a cartoon. It’s entertainment. I adored Westerns as a kid and came out with pointed fingers ‘shooting’ people. You come out of the movie theatre satiated. It doesn’t mean you’re going to come out and buy a gun.

When did being asked to do your ‘I will find you’ speech from Taken start to get tiresome?
After the first time. If I got a quarter for every message I’ve left on my sons’ friends’ answer phones I’d be quite wealthy.

You were offered the lead role in the 2012 movie Lincoln, which Daniel Day Lewis then got. Why did you turn it down?
I’d passed my sell-by date. Steven [Spielberg] had offered it to me ten years ago and he’s a pal, but it came to a point where I thought, ‘It’s gone for me’ and he got the right actor. Daniel is superb in it.

So are you still happy playing action heroes?
I think maybe I’ve a couple of years left to do some more action films. I haven’t been called for The Expendables just yet. There’s two or three more action in the pipeline. Run All Night is out in April with Ed Harris and it’s a great thriller.

Do you think you’d like to film an action movie here?
I have heard such wonderful things about people who have visited here in the past for shooting, or even attending the film festival here. In fact, I would love to get an invite to the film festival. And I think the city makes for a cool setting for a thriller to be filmed here.

Was there ever a movie that made you want to be an actor?
It was always theatre. As a kid it certainly never entertained me, but strangely enough, I remember performances affecting me in some way. Even though I knew they were actors. The first one was seeing Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was just intense fear and at the same time you had incredible sympathy for this man. It still gives me goosebumps you know.

Would you go back to theatre?
I’d love to and I’m trying to, Jessica Lange got in touch with me to see if I’d do Long Days Journey into Night, at the Roundabout Theatre in New York with her, which I’m seriously considering. The last time I was at The Roundabout, was with my wife [Natasha Richardson who passed away in 2009] and I did Anna Christie. I need to get back on stage; it’s a muscle you have to exercise. I feel if I don’t do it in the next two years, I never will.

Is there a piece of advice from anyone in the industry that you go by?
I always liked Jimmy [James] Cagney’s advice. Someone asked him once about a scene and he said, ‘Listen dear, walk in the room, plant your feet and speak the truth, ugh.’

Could you ever direct?
No. I just like the gypsy existence. My friend Ralph Fiennes does it. He kind of swears he’ll never do it again and then next thing I hear, he’s doing something else. It requires a different mindset.
Taken 3 is out in cinemas across the UAE now. Visit www.timeoutdubai.com for the extended interview.

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