Jaume Collet-Serra is no stranger to directing Liam Neeson in action, after their work together on Unknown. We caught up with Collet-Serra for an exclusive interview and he admitted the huge appeal of Non-Stop wasn’t just reuniting with Neeson, it was trying to film a movie that would make his cinematic hero proud… Alfred Hitchcock.
The Joel Silver-produced film has a murder mystery feel, at 30,000 feet, where all the characters are in the same location for the entire movie. Hitchcock has done that several times in his career to great triumph. Collet-Serra talks to Movie Fanatic about how he achieved his Hitchcockian moment and the unique challenges it took to make a thriller that feels like it is truly… Non-Stop.
Movie Fanatic: Was shooting pretty much the entire movie in the tight space of an airplane a daunting challenge… or perhaps it was a welcome challenge?
Jaume Collet-Serra: It was a welcome challenge shooting a movie -- a thriller in one location is something that many directors have done. For example, Hitchcock has done a number of them. It’s always nice for a director to stretch themselves and I thought that an airplane was an ideal space to have a mystery thriller. You have to deal with the plane, and the pressurized environment… which if something happens on a plane, obviously a lot of things can go wrong.
Movie Fanatic: The entire film rides completely on Liam Neeson’s shoulders. He’s had a lot of success lately being an action hero and he has been one before for you. What is it about him that audiences pull for him to succeed in this genre?
Jaume Collet-Serra: He’s a fantastic actor, and that is where it all starts. Having somebody that is likable, like he is, and at the same time somebody who doesn’t shy away from action -- he enjoys it -- is always a plus. It’s great to be a part of that. He makes it very easy for me because we can go between dramatic and action scenes very easily. That’s not something everybody can do. After doing a couple of movies with him, we have a shorthand. We trust each other. Taken was obviously the movie that changed everything, but he is no stranger to action. He did Star Wars. He did Batman.
Movie Fanatic: What was it about this particular story of Non-Stop that was most appealing? There are many levels -- the family man story, the murder mystery kind of element and then the balls-to-the-wall thriller.
Jaume Collet-Serra: For me, it was the concept of, how are you going to kill somebody every 20 minutes on an airplane and get away with it? How to keep that going? Usually in a movie, you know who the bad guy is right away. With this, it keeps you guessing until the end. To keep those things a mystery in such a tight space was a challenge, but it worked well in the script. I loved the challenge of putting it all together. It was great to get the opportunity to make one of those movies that is very old school, like a Hitchcock, and you get the idea of that with this ensemble cast. It feels like a classic movie.
Movie Fanatic: It’s a smaller role for Julianne Moore, one of our greats. But, how did having someone of her caliber in a supporting role truly help the picture as a whole?
Jaume Collet-Serra: We needed somebody that had good chemistry with Liam, and they had worked together before. Liam suggested her. She was ready to play with it. When she got the script, the role was underwritten. Some people would see that as a problem, she saw it as an opportunity. At the beginning of the movie, she pretty much only orders tea [laughs]. But, the way that she does it, the audience is wondering what she is up to, which only helps our mystery remain mysterious. Only an expert like Julianne can do that.
Movie Fanatic: You mentioned all the challenges of shooting this movie. Was there one particular triumph of yours that 30 years from now, you’ll look back on with true pride above all others?
Jaume Collet-Serra: The days blend together when you’re shooting in one location. It’s like Groundhog Day! There was that shot where I had to go from the back of the plane to the front quickly and that was difficult to rehearse, design the shot and factored in even when we were building the plane. We had to shoot it in one day and that was the most stressful for me because if it didn’t work, I had no backup plan. It could have been a nightmare, but that was my best moment.
Click through and discover some great plane-centric movies, of which Non-Stop is one!