We also get a little bit of info on his shooting The Dark Knight Rises and what he thinks is the success of the original Taken movie.
You can read our review of Taken 2 here.
So do you have a big fanbase in Albania?
It’s funny, I was suggesting to the Producers that we do a premiere in Albania, just to see what would happen (laughs) I’d be game for it!
When was the ideas for the sequel first muted and what drew you in?
Probably a year and a half ago maybe. They proposed a couple of ideas a few years ago which I thought were silly and then Luc and his writing partner Robert Mark Kamen came up with this scenario set in Istanbul and I though ‘yeah, this could work’ and it drew Famke Janssen’s character in and mine much more and I thought it was good.
Was it hard or easy to film in Istanbul compared to Paris?
There were different challenges. It’s an extraordinary city. A lot of the streets we shot in which were thousands of years old were as wide as this room. Shops on either side, merchants selling their wares and we’re doing a car chase at 50 or 60 mph and people would say “no no no, I’m not closing my shop. Do you movie, I sell my wares!” with people crossing the road (laughs)
Was anyone hurt during the movie?
Nobody was hurt, nobody was hurt at all but it added an exoticism to the film I think. The extras weren’t from central casting, they were real-life people going about their daily lives.
You’re very active in this movie as you’ve been in several movies recently. Do you slot into training for this or does it take a certain amount of extra work?
There’s always extra work. I keep pretty fit in life as a rule, you have to these days, right? So for this sort of stuff there’s a few more sit-ups and push-ups you have to do in the morning. There’s a considerable amount of fight choreography training, rehearsing and re-rehearsing so every day after we’d wrapped, we’d go back to the hotel to train (probably in a room about this size) and we’d work on these fights.
Do you bounce of a fist like you used to?
No no, it starts to hurt and the knees creak a little bit more you know. It’s good to use that. Especially in the last encounter we have in the film, we try to show two getting tried, and sweaty and it’s not super-hero stuff, it’s ugly and tiring and violent.
You leave the door open to Taken 3….?
Do you think so? I don’t. No, I think we’re finished. Mind you I thought we were finished with the first one!
Have you been surprised at the success of the first and how much people wanted a second?
We were all pleasantly surprised because the film came in France first and was reasonably successful. Then the next territory it opened was South Korea and it was phenomenally successful. Then you could download it on your computer. I know that because my nephews in Ireland and England rang me up and said
“errrrrrrr we saw your movie”,
I said “You can’t have seen it, it hasn’t opened yet”
“errrr, we saw it on the computer”.
And I remember thinking that’s the end of that, it’s finished but Fox in the US took it and did a phenomenal PR job playing little 30-second TV spots at these big sporting events, Super Bowl, big basketball events and baseball events and it came out and it was an extraordinary success so it’s due to Fox, they really hyped it.
Your character in the film is brutal, do you think if you met him you’d go down the pub with him for a drink?
Absolutely. He’s a very sensitive, caring, intelligent (laughs!) gentleman. There’s a guy who was my mentor who trained me on a fight a few years ago in weapons and he is a special operatives soldier actively going into Afghanistan at various times, actively going into Pakistan. He never can talk about what he does but he goes but he goes in then four days later he come outs, I don’t see him for a couple of weeks and then he calls me and says “fancy a drink”. He’s bandaged here or bandaged there but he can’t talk about what he’s done other than giving broad broad outlines. He’s a guy that would walk down the street and you wouldn’t pick him out from a crowed. The stuff he gets up to is breathtaking.
Now that you’re getting older and films like Expendables are successful and Taken was so successful, do you think 60 is the new 20?
60’s the new 40, that’s for sure! You explain to me, what’s the success of Expendables for example?
Ryan from Den of Geek – “Kind of nostalgia partially. I think Taken harks back to those proper action movies of the 80s. Merciless good-guy, righteousness and all that sort of thing”
I have theories too that certainly with the first Taken, when it came out in America it was 2009. The world was turned upside-down financially, we were in a crisis. Our elected leaders, our so-called ‘pillars of society’ and bankers and managers and stuff were fucking shafting us. Everybody felt vulnerable and scared and nervous and when you feel that, you seek entertainment and I think when they see films like (Expendables didn’t come out then) but Taken and I’m sure there were a couple of others where it’s someone who’s not going to call a figure of authority when he’s in trouble, he’s going to do something about it himself. And I think that gave people a real guilty pleasure in saying “Yes, I wish I could do that?”.
Do you think that’s why your character in Taken and Taken 2 to a certain extend is sort of invulnerable?
I think he’s very vulnerable too. He’s an overprotective dad. He’s not some super-hero. I think he’s, joking aside he is very sensitive. He’s led a very strange, covert professional life and has missed out on his daughter’s upbringing and he’s desperately trying to make up for that time and failing, the way most father’s feel I think.
It’s nice to see you have more time with Maggie Grace this time, did you have to teach her the action ropes?
Well Maggie’s very fit so I didn’t have to teach her anything. She took it all on board so if there is a sequel, it should be based on Maggie’s character.
What was it about the original movie that made you want to do it?
I’ve always liked Luc Besson and his movies and there was something about the story which was dead simple. There was a chance to do all this physical stuff which I love doing. And there was the chance to spend three months in Paris which wasn’t too shabby! I thought it might make it’s money back and then it’ll disappear into DVD land. And that was OK with me, three months in Paris, get to work with these great French crews and the great stunt guys.
What was the most difficult scene to do in the new movie?
Those driving scenes were difficult. You never knew who was going to pop out of a shop.We had a police presence but they could only do so much. We smashed real police cars and a few Mercedes too.
Do you find lines from Taken quoted back to you on a regular basis?
Occasionally I hear it. My son’s friends. “errrrr, Mr Neeson, could you leave a message on my iPhone?” but usually it’s “eh, release the Krakken!!” (Laughs!)
Now that you’ve played all these big roles, what else do you’d like to play
For ten seconds I was up for playing the role of Noah but I think Russell’s doing that now. Then they wanted me to play his nemesis and I thought “argh, if you’re not Noah!” (laughs).
Do you want to be the villain?
Sometimes. Batman Begins was interesting I thought. But he doesn’t see himself as a villain. He sees himself as the saviours of the planet.
What was it like going back to that role in The Dark Knight Rises?
It was good. I haven’t seen the movie yet to be honest. I was on set for 2 hours I think. Chris said, “Don’t tell anybody you were here,” in a crew of 300! I’m not going to say anything but those 300 guys might. So doing junkets people say, “So, we hear you’re in Batman,” and I say “I’m not!, I’m really not.”
Taken 2 is out this Thursday 4th October.