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Q and A - Liam Neeson (Battleship)

06 Apr 2012
The Irish acting legend talks about his sci-fi adventure
In recent years, Ballymena born star Liam Neeson has found himself drawn more and more towards action roles, to the general delight of, well, everybody. At nearly 60, he still makes a remarkably convincing bad ass and with The Dark Knight Rises and Taken 2 on the way, it looks like he has no intention of slowing down.
He takes on a slightly more placid role in his latest, Battleship, where he plays the Admiral of a naval fleet that gets caught in the middle of an interstellar war while on an exercise in the Pacific. Here, Neeson talks about his experience on the film and keeping up his prodigious work rate.Q: How did you get involved in Battleship?
A: Pete Berg (Director) called me up and said, “Do you want to be the Admiral of the Fleet?” I said, “What is that?” He said, “You get to call the shots, you get to come to Hawaii for a few days, and everybody salutes you.”Q: What did you think when you first got the script for Battleship? Did you ever play the game when you were a kid?
A: I didn’t play the game. My kids have it, though. I knew it was a board game, but that was about it. I didn’t question it. The script was very exciting and I trusted Pete to do a wonderful job. It was great to be the Admiral of the Fleet, with everybody saluting you all the time. It was terrific.Q: How was it to have to jump straight into the set like that? Did you have any time to prepare?
A: I didn’t do much research but I knew the history of Pearl Harbor, which is where the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II. We were shooting on board the USS Missouri. It was a little bit scary because my first day we shot a scene at the end of the film where my character is making a speech to five hundred cadets. The cadets were all true naval cadets. They put me in the costume and that was it.Q: In Battleship, did you base your character, Admiral Shane, on anyone in particular?
A: Douglas MacArthur, for instance, was a phenomenal leader in World War II. I’d read some stuff on him a few years ago so I thought, maybe my guy is like MacArthur.
Things explode often in Battleship
Things explode often in BattleshipEnlarge Enlarge
Q: Do you have any seafaring experience to draw upon? A: Paul McCartney took me sailing and tried to give me a sailing lesson about ten years ago. It was one of those little skiffs, you know, those little plastic boats. Then he got me a book called Sailing for Dummies. No, he didn’t. I got it myself, but the sailing was good. He took me out for about an hour and a half.Q: You have the physique of a military officer. How do you maintain your physique? A: I was an amateur boxer. That was my sport. I still box. I don’t punch human beings, just a heavy bag.Q: What is the worst beating you have ever taken? A: When I was sixteen-years old, I was in a boxing match, which I won, but I shouldn’t have. I think I was beat. It was three rounds and afterwards, I had a bit of a concussion. I just couldn’t remember anything. My trainer was saying, “Okay, go down and put your clothes on,” and I didn’t know what he meant. Clothes? I was very, very confused. It lasted about three minutes.Q: What is the best advice you have been given in your life? A:, I remember, years and years ago, James Cagney was being interviewed on one of these English chat shows, Michael Parkinson I think. Parkinson was saying, “You played Shakespeare, you played heavies, you played romantic heroes.” That type of stuff then he asked James, “What’s the secret?” Cagney replied, “You just walk into a room, plant your feet, and speak the truth.” That always stays with me.Q: Did you give any advice to first-time actor, Rihanna, while shooting Battleship? A: I didn’t have any scenes with Rihanna but I sense that she is a good. She does have a quality that I think would make her a great actress.Q: Some people think of you as a theatre actor, first and foremost. Then we see you in a blockbuster action movie like Battleship. What is the difference for you between theatre and working on a blockbuster, action film? A: My early years were all just theatre. The last time I was on stage was three-years ago at Lincoln Center. Before that it was ten-years ago in the Crucible on Broadway. I’d love to get back to theatre. The thing I’ve found about films is that you are always doing little mini pieces of theatre.
The alien design from Battleship
The alien design from BattleshipEnlarge Enlarge
Q: You have been in fourteen movies in the past two years. You’ve been working a lot in film lately. A: It’s either feast or famine in our business. I believe in making hay while the sun shines. Work is work. To be honest, it’s great to have the opportunity.Q: You’ve been in the industry such a long time. Do you just want to keep working? A: I’ve been in fifty-five films over the course of my career. I’ll just keep going. As long as my knees hold out and they keep offering me these action movies, I’ll do them. In action films, you get work with some wonderful stunt guys and choreographers. I love doing that sort of stuff.Q: One of your first jobs was being a forklift truck driver. Back then, did you ever imagine you would one day be a movie star? A: Not in my wildest dreams. I was very happy being a forklift truck driver, as well.Q: How do you approach a film like Battleship? Dead serious or with a little bit of irony? A: It depends on the Director. I think one should keep a lightness of touch.Q: How was it working with Director, Peter Berg? A: He was terrific and he’s an actor, too. When everything is set up and ready to go, he focuses totally on the acting side of it.Q: How did you enjoy working with Brooklyn Decker? A: Brooklyn was lovely. She plays my daughter, Sam. She’s a good actress. Taylor Kitsch, who plays Alex Hopper, my daughter’s fiancé, was very good, as well.Q: Can you talk about working with Alexander Skarsgård, who plays Alex Hopper’s older brother? A: Alexander and I only had one scene together at the very, very end of the film. It was the scene with all the cast and the five-hundred Navy cadets. There weren’t any scenes where Alexander and I had any interaction though. But I’ve seen his work and I think he’s a wonderful actor.
Taylor Kitsch gets shouty in Battleship
Taylor Kitsch gets shouty in BattleshipEnlarge Enlarge
Battleship is in cinemas from the 11th of April. Check back soon for more interview and a full review.
Q and A - Liam Neeson (Battleship) on