Liam Neeson is back in action in A Walk Among the Tombstones. The thriller, based on the character from the book series by Lawrence Block, features Neeson as Matt Scudder, a former NYPD detective who moved to private detective work after one fateful night found him inadvertently killing an innocent bystander -- as teased in the A Walk Among the Tombstones trailer.
When we caught up with Neeson he talked about this latest renaissance in his career where he is now more known for his action work than his serious thespian endeavors.
“I was in my 50s when this Taken film came out. I was sure it was a straight to video, good little European thriller. Well, Fox studios took it and did this amazing sell job and showed the trailer at big sporting events and it became a hit,” Neeson admitted.
“I started getting sent these action scripts in my 50s, and it was flattering and I felt like a kid in a toy shop and I figured, why not do them? I’m very fortunate to get to play these characters this stage in my life. I love doing it. I’ll keep doing them as long as they keep sending me these scripts.”
Neeson then stressed that these are certain types of characters and you won’t see him trying to be someone he’s not. “I always wanted to not become like a 27-year-old. I try in these fight scenes to fight like a 50-year-old. Even though I’m 62,” he said and laughs. “I don’t want it to be a superhero type.”
This action hero portion of his career is actually finding him in roles that were the ones he looked up to as a kid. “I was always attracted to that type of cinema hero as an adolescent growing up in Ireland. Robert Mitchum springs to mind -- later on it was Steve McQueen – to a certain extent Charles Bronson,” Neeson said.
“They were grizzled characters who had one foot on the side of law and order and the other foot in the bad guy’s camp. They always tread on a delicate line. I always found it appealing. It’s great to get the chance to do that. They’re real.”
That is exactly what his character is in A Walk Among the Tombstones. His private detective takes work from those who can’t go to the cops. And in this case, it’s a drug dealer (Dan Stevens) whose wife has been kidnapped. Even though he paid the ransom, the kidnappers still brutally murdered her. He wants Neeson to find them, and he’ll do the rest.
“In Matt Scudder’s case, he’s a recovering alcoholic. Those guys wake up in the morning and they have to think of a reason to get up. It’s all these little heroic battles they fight with and against every day of their lives,” Neeson said.
“I think Scott (Frank, writer-director) brought that out very lovely, very beautifully in the film. So he’s not larger-than-life; he’s just one of us. But his career was in the police force, and these guys see a side of humanity that we just don’t want to know about, on a daily basis.”
Neeson is no stranger to accolades. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his work on Schindler’s List. And many of his works lately are considered some of the best of the year, such as 2011’s The Grey. But action films rarely get the notice of the Academy and Neeson is just fine with that.
“The whole awards thing, listen, I think they’re great. The Golden Globes, the Academy, they put a focus on the industry and that focus translates into people buying tickets to see movies. It keeps us all in work. So I’m a big fan of award shows. But, it takes a hell of a lot of money to mount a campaign for any film,” Neeson said.
“So, a picture like The Grey, which came out January or February, the closing date for that year’s consideration is December -- it takes a lot of money to remind an audience again. It’s OK. It’s not really frustrating. What was it Lauren Bacall said, ‘It’s a great medium, a lousy business?’ The reward is doing the work.”
Not that Neeson is a complete loner, but he does play characters (like Scudder) who like to go at it alone -- and in many ways, he finds that easy to relate to. “I like to think I am. No, no man’s an island, as they say,” Neeson said.
“I’ve tried it. I’ve gone on retreats at various times in my life for three, four, five days, and I was desperate to get out of there and talk to somebody! But I fly fish a lot. I can only really do that by myself. I’m never lonesome when I’m on a river -- far from it. It’s a lonely practice.”
Check out the film that re-launched Neeson as an action hero and watch Taken online.