In Taken, Liam Neeson plays a former government spy who embarks on a manhunt to find his abducted daughter. The role is fast-paced and violent, but Liam says his own upbringing as a boxer trained him in just the opposite.
“I was a boxer for 6 or 7 years,” says Liam, “Never once did I get into a street fight, a school fight, because the discipline of learning how to box seemed to negate any kind of physical acts of violence I may have felt. And any martial arts people I’ve worked with they will always say check where the door is,” he continues “And if something starts, leave.”
In Taken, the fight scenes are intense, and demanding on Liam. We asked him about his training for the film. “I had a great fight coordinator,” he says, “and the style of fighting is called Kapour, and it’s an amalgam of various martial arts styles. I learned a very, very basic set of moves and then after the fights were choreographed it was just a matter of rehearsing them and rehearsing them until they became second nature to us when we shot them.”
But did anyone get hurt?
“No. These are amazing stunt guys,” explains Liam. “They kind of ride with the punches so you hit them, but they are coming away from the punch at the same time. So it looks it is very physical and it looks vary violent but these guys were just fantastic.”
So how does Liam get in shape for such a physically demanding role?
“I don’t run. My body hates that,” explains Liam. “Stationary bike, and kettle bells. They’re old Russian weights with these handles on them, and punching bags too.”
Irish-born Liam is known for his role as roles as Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg‘s Shindler’s List, and as Qui-Gon Jinn in George Lucas‘ Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
A good part of the filming for Taken was in France, and Liam tells us he is a little embarrassed of his inability to speak the native tongue. “I’ve been going to France for maybe 15 years, and I speak ten words,” he says with a laugh. “My wife is fluent. My kids are becoming fluent. But I do wonderful mimes while I’m there.
In the film, he plays a parent searching for his kidnapped child, so of course we had to ask about his own children. “I’m a father of two boys, and I think if I was a father of a girl I’d be a lot more protective,” he admits. “But my wife and I both plan so that when our kids are 18, show them the door and tell them there’s a big wide world out there and go out and see some of it.”
Obviously, Liam believes that it is important for children to experience the world. “I think kids, I’ll put my foot in it and say it, in this country kids are too overprotected,” says Liam. “And I think if they traveled a little bit more and saw a little bit more of the world, there would be a lot more tolerance of other nations and countries and cultures.”
So did Liam take his own advice and travel as a teen? “I did in a very limited way,” explains Liam. “I left Ballymena and traveled to Dublin and made it over to England. I kept fairly close to home. As much as I would have romantically would love to have hitchhiked around Europe, I was a late bloomer.”
Taken explores the topic of international kidnapping and exploitation of children in the sex slave trade, a topic Liam learned about with is work with UNICEF.
“It’s a huge problemâ€”hugeâ€”of children being abducted and never seen again,” says Liam. “And there’s a very, very strong chance that they had been brought into the sex slave trade. A couple of police officers that I did meet in Paris had told me some of their stories about it,” explains Liam. “It’s a big problem.”
Liam character in Taken uses a severe amount of violence, making his character sometimes seem more like a bad guy than good. We asked Liam about how he felt about some of the choices his character made.
“Yeah he’s gone off the edge,” says Liam. “He should be on the knife edge of the abyss of absolute disintegration of the mind or keeping just left of it whereby you are trying to be sane, sober, calculating and putting together this jigsaw.”
Keeping up his energy for such a demanding role must have been tough on Liam. He says he has his director to thank for that. “It was helped by Pierre Morel, and he started each day’s work on a very high level of dynamism and energy,” explains Liam. “And he was giving 300 percent and all he wanted from us was 100 percent.”
Speaking of director’s, Liam is slated to play Abraham Lincoln in Steven Spielberg‘s film Lincoln. We tried to get more details on the film, but Liam kept pretty quite on the topic. “It’s crying out to be told,” says Liam. “It’s an extraordinary story. But it’s in the works and [Spielberg] will do it I’m sure when he’s ready.”