Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Liam Neeson interview...

Liam Neeson: Age shouldn't get in the way
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star)
Updated February 16, 2011 12:00 AM
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Liam portrays a doctor who awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife doesn’t recognize him anymore.| Zoom
L.A. CALIF. — Liam Neeson was more than five minutes late to our appointed interview — and he was not very happy about it. “I try not to be late; movie stars should never be late!” insisted the talented actor as he propped himself up on the chair next to mine at our roundtable interview at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills two Sundays ago.

The fact that he would apologize for what was perfectly a reasonable and understandable (if not normal) delay speaks highly of the actor and of how he takes his job as an actor, and not just as a movie star, seriously.

Liam casts an imposing and towering image on the big screen that one would have to think twice before daring to cross him. But, to this writer’s delight, the actor, who most recently was in the cast of the action-packed movie The A-Team and who single-handedly took on dozens of French criminals in the 2009 action-thriller Taken is, quite surprisingly, very quiet, soft-spoken and has an easy smile in person.

He is a very nice fellow, indeed, but when asked if he considers himself an action star he only shakes his head. “Make hay while the sun shines as the saying goes,” he replied. “I think when I turn 60, it will start to slow down.”

That would still be a good two years away.

The actor is 58 years old and is enjoying a three-year box-office streak. “I never actively pursued these types of roles because 20 years ago there were a lot of action heroes doing very successful films,” he revealed. “What I like about it now is I love the physicality of it. I love to become a little 12-year-old boy and kick a little bit of ass.”
On Feb. 18, the hesitant action star gets to do that once again when his latest action thriller, Warner Bros.’ Unknown, opens in theaters.

In his new movie, the Oscar-nominated actor portrays a doctor who awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (portrayed in the movie by the gorgeous, and current Hollywood “IT” girl, January Jones) doesn’t recognize him anymore. His wife has taken on a new husband who has already assumed his identity.
Liam considers his new role quite a challenge: “He is alone and not just abandoned, but rejected by everyone he thinks he knows.”

“It is like reverse amnesia,” director Jaume Collet-Serra added. “It’s as if the world has amnesia about him. He absolutely knows who he is, but everyone else has forgotten him.”

“It’s a really good script,” Liam said. “It’s like a throwback to all those Hitchcockian movies. In this day and age, the audiences are so savvy with it and this picture does keep ahead of the game. It keeps you guessing.”
In Unknown, there is a big revelation somewhere in the narrative that even Liam didn’t see coming. “I think I am fairly savvy when I read script. It was that good!”

The memory loss component of the plot also drew a distant recollection for Liam, who was an amateur boxer as a kid. “I got my bell rung a few times,” he recalled. “It’s always stayed with me, that memory of not having a memory, even for a short time. It was an interesting life experience to draw on for this role.”

At 58, short spells of memory loss is no longer that strange to the actor. When he was describing the city of Berlin, he couldn’t remember Melanie Griffith’s name, with whom he co-starred in a movie he made in Berlin more than 20 years ago, and kept referring to her as Antonio Banderas’ wife.

Mornings spent looking for his eyeglasses is now also almost a typical part of his daily routine. “I tend to be very, very forgetful and my sons make fun of that… I make fun of it!” There are also days when he just couldn’t help but blurt out, “F---, I am getting old!”

But, for him, getting old does not and should not get in the way of being an actor. For those days when he couldn’t trust himself to memorize pages and pages of dialogues, he has devised an ingenious way of avoiding an embarrassing on-set lapse of memory.

He started wearing an earpiece “so that somebody could feed me the lines” on the set of his current film, which is being shot in below freezing temps in Canada. “I have fallen in love with it. It’s so great I don’t have to learn the lines again,” he joked.

For most of his career, Liam has been mostly associated with high-concept productions and the idea of him making action movies seemed impossible to comprehend. Although he has portrayed a sword-wielding hero in Rob Roy, he has never been seen in a straight-action movie until two years ago.

He revealed that casting directors thought he was “too sensitive” for the parts early in his career and was never seriously considered for any roles that would normally go to guys like Bruce Willis or Harrison Ford.

The Irish-born actor was a classically-trained theater artist in Belfast before moving to Hollywood in the early ‘80s. He won worldwide critical acclaim portraying Oskar Schindler, the shrewd German industrialist who saved thousands of Jews from the Holocaust in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Oscar-winning film Schindler’s List.

Over the years, he has made a number of notable films including the Oscar-nominated biopic Kinsey. He also appeared in George Lucas’ Star Wars trilogy, acted with Meryl Streep in the drama Before & After, and provided the voice of the lion, Aslan, in the Chronicles of Narnia films. But he credits his 2009 movie Taken for his sudden — and lucrative — incursion into the action genre.

Taken was one of the biggest box-office hits of 2009. The success of the movie even caught Liam by surprise. He admitted that when he was making the movie he thought “it was gonna go straight to video and it would disappear.”

But even after making three action movies: Taken, The A-Team, Unknown; and two more in production: Joe Carnahan’s The Grey and the highly-anticipated sci-fi action-adventure Battleship, he still doesn’t consider himself an action star. For him, no matter what type of movies he makes, he will remain just an actor. A very good one, I would add.

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