An Interview With Liam Neeson

Posted on: 02 February 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Irish actor Liam Neeson answers questions on his role in Franco-American thriller Taken.

Liam Neeson takes on a breakneck, adrenalin-fuelled role in the tense and heart-pounding action thriller Taken, from acclaimed producer Luc Besson.

Neeson (Batman Begins, Schindlers List) plays an ex-secret agent who will stop at nothing to rescue his daughter from her Albanian kidnappers in Paris. This rollercoaster ride of an adventure is as action-packed as the ‘Bourne Trilogy’ and will have you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.  

Taken is an intense film; was it a difficult shoot?

"It's always great to get the chance to flex your muscles. I’ve done quite a few action films, sword movies, plus there’s been a lightsabre or two, and this was something, which, when I read the script, I thought ‘I’m only going to do this if I can do my own fights’. I really wanted to do that stuff and get into that world.

"They had this style of fighting called ‘parkour’. You see these guys jumping from building to building. It really is an extraordinary thing. I didn’t do any jumping myself; I get dizzy walking on a thick carpet!"

What is 'Parkour'?

"It’s all these disciplines smudged together into something that’s very nasty. It’s a take-no-prisoners type of fighting."

"It looks complicated but it’s actually based on a triangle, the power of a triangle. To see these experts do it: you get in the way and in two seconds you are on the floor. When they started rehearsing, I thought ‘f**k, there’s no way I’m going to do this stuff!’ But I was a boxer as a kid and I keep fit so I just about hung in there."

Did you do any particular physical training?

"Well, we’d start off every day and I’d do the basic training and then we’d get specific to the particular fight for the sequence in rehearsal.

Taken Poster"The scary thing was that the fight choreographer, Olivier Schneider, and his stunt team would get me to make contact with people in training! He said, ‘You have to hit these guys. You have to kick them! I promise you they are well padded but you’ve got to.’

"Even then, during the first week and a half I was tentative about it. But then I began making contact, and once I discovered that they were okay it was kind of releasing in a way. And then the whole thing just lifted off. I discovered that when you are hesitant, that’s when accidents happen. It’s the same as with sword fighting. If you are hesitant, you pull back and that can create serious accidents."

Was there a part of you that you brought to your character in Taken, or any part of him that stayed with you?

"Well you kind of bring yourself to the character with any part you play. As actors in films we all have certain baggage. You can’t get rid of that. You can be the greatest actor in the world and put on a fake nose and do this and that and be different, but you’ll always have a certain spirit or aura that’s you.

"I just thought when I read the script for Taken that I am enough to do it. I am all I need. I can’t ultimately criticise myself the way you could. I can’t see me the way you do as a critic, journalist or reporter."

Did being a parent affect how you approached this character?

"Absolutely it did. I think it’s probably the worst thing any parent could face, the abduction of a child.

"As a Unicef ambassador I have access to facts and figures and dossiers of the numbers of young girls and young boys who disappear into the sex trade. It would make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. These stories do get press coverage, but then they often disappear. It’s on the increase.

"With the issues in Taken, in New York, every so often, you read about police raids down in China Town and all these Asian girls are discovered being slaves."

Is there one scene in the film that is of particular importance to you?

"There’s a fight scene with five Albanians. We brought this man in to tell us what to do, because we wanted to avoid a cliché fight.

Liam Neeson in Taken"We said, ‘It’s a very confined space. There are these four guys sat at a table, one guy standing behind. Liam’s character comes in. He knows there’s going to be violence. What would you do?’ He said, ‘Well where’s the door? You want to get out, so the door’s got to be behind you…’

"In about 10 minutes he says this is what I’d do: ‘Get the knife. This guy’s there. I’d kick him in the forehead, turn, (by this time, this guy’s getting up), kick the table over to get him. The other guy would have fallen back and then there’s maybe two seconds before I can get him. I know he has a gun…’ He was so professional and exact about it. I was suddenly thinking, ‘Wow! Oh, f**k!’ It was brutal. So it's based on reality, that particular fight."

Do you watch many DVDs?

"When I can. We live in a barn conversion in up-state New York and we converted the upper part of it to a little screening room, and a gym.

"I thought ‘what’s the first film I want to see? Schindler’s List. It’s got to be.’ I must get Schindler’s List on this system because I haven’t seen the film since it came out. I want my kids to see it."

Liam Neeson in Schindler's ListWhat films do you think your children will particularly enjoy?

"Actually, they liked Taken although it’s a bit old for them certificate-wise. They thought it was really cool. That was high praise indeed. But there’s a bunch of films that I’d love to share with them, like Shane and all the great John Ford westerns. I love those."

Has your passion for the job ever waned? You’re financially secure; you could retire…

"I’m very blessed. I love what I do and I’m lucky enough to get the chance to do it. I really mean that. It’s fantastic.

"When a stranger calls up your agent and when he says ‘I really want Liam Neeson’, I still get such a kick out of that."

The internet says that you were a good football player when you were young. Is that true?

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"Me? I didn’t play football at all well. No. I’ve two left feet. People say that I’m a professional footballer, and I’m like ‘what? You’re obviously thinking of somebody else!’

"I was a boxer as a kid. I was quite good but I didn’t have the killer instinct. It started to hurt the more I grew. I still train, though. I love the boxing training, and, like I said, it came in real handy for Taken."

Taken is released to rent and buy as an extended, harder cut than seen in cinemas on DVD and Blu-ray on the 9th February from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. 


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