*The first Liam Neesom interview I did was at a Universal Pictures press junket in London, England for “Love Actually.” That romcom also stars Chiwetel Ejiofore, and his wife in the film, Keira Knightley.
“Love Actually,” which has become a holiday staple, has Neeson as the father of Sam (Thomas Sangster) who has a tremendous crush on Black classmate Joanna (Olivia Olson), and Neeson helps Sam to win the heart of Joanna.
Both Olson and her mother in the film, Ruby Turner, are singers in real life.
During those interviews back in 2003, the words action hero and Liam Neeson were not used in the same context. Since 2008 when “Taken” took moviegoers by storm, Neesom has become—and rightly so—one of the world’s favorite action stars. In the edge of your seat exhilarating ride “Non-Stop,” the suspense only builds in this startling whodunit as Neeson keeps passengers in check aboard a compromised jetliner.
Julianne Moore is one of the suspected passengers and keeps everyone guessing. Moore also had audiences guessing when she appeared with Samuel L. Jackson in “Freedomland.” In the remarkable “Children of Men” with Clive Owen and Chiwetel Ejiogor, Moore helps to deliver the one person that is the hope of mankind to safety. A populace on the verge of extinction because of infertility, a pregnant Black woman—(Kee [Clare-Hope Ashitey])—is pegged to be killed. Moore and Owen transport Kee to a sanctuary at sea to insure the baby’s safe delivery.
Neeson and Moore, still on top of their game, made a pit stop at the Ritz Carlton in New York City to talk about their relentless, hair raising “Non-Stop” thriller. After repeating a line from the film that says American security in this country is a lie, The Film Strip asked them if they ever had second thoughts about their safety when traveling? “I have to admit I don’t,” Neeson assured. “We all know what security is like at airports; we’ve all experienced it and it’s a nightmare. But these are the times we’re living in. Once I get through that other end, I totally relax as a result of it. I love flying. I feel totally safe.”
Moore echoed Neeson’s sentiments. “I do feel that people are meticulous and very careful and thoughtful about what’s happening. From what I see around me the people are agreeing to this because it’s a group effort. No, I don’t feel ill at ease at all.” She continued by expounding on that fear in the film. “Obviously when you construct entertainment—all kinds of thrillers, horror movies, anything that’s going to scare—they are all based on what our natural worries are. You sort of take them and exaggerate them.
“Are you scary of ghosts, is it the devil. I’m very scary of the devil [laughs]. But you know in this case you take something that’s sort of routine. Obviously when you enter an airplane you’re giving up some control, all of us, and you play on that. Jaume [director collet-serra] takes rather ordinary circumstances and turns it into a kind of Hitchcockian event. It’s very reminiscence of those older movies and of the disaster movies I loved as a kid like ‘Poseidon Adventure’ and ‘Towering Inferno.’ So it becomes classic entertainment,” Moore offered.
People persons Neeson and Moore spent a lot of time at JFK with cast and crew and enjoyed it during the shoot. “We were at JFK for like two nights, quite late on in the shoot and it was quite strange, being in a real airport,” Neeson recalled. “It was tough on the crew, 50 guys, where we were sitting. It was lovely to be with those people and some of the extras we got to know. They had a lot to do. There were over a hundred actors and we got to know some of them quite well.” Moore had a more comical recollection. “We were like chickens being let out of a pen,” she laughed. “Free space, free space, ‘You wanna go over here? You wanna go over there? Where you wanna go?’ [laughs] It was nice. We were very comfortable and we were with a great group of people. It was a wonderfully cast movie. So it was fun to be with everybody, so nice to have everyone there.”
Don’t expect to see any martial arts on the plane because Neeson, who was once a boxer, said it would’ve been “too corny.” “Whatever altercations happen on the airplane, we wanted to make them quite real, he explained. “I worked quite closely with a Special Forces guy that trains Air Marshals. We came up with the fight in the bathroom based on stuff that he himself was trying to do in very close situations. What you would do to disarm someone. So we tried to keep that real and exciting.”
So what kind of travelers are Neeson and Moore in real life? Are they cordial to fellow passengers or do they brush them off? “When they come up to me in the airport I just say f**k off,” was Neeson’s hilarious comeback. “I say this to kids, some seven-year-old wanting a photograph, I say f**k off! I’m joking, of course. I don’t get hassled too much.” Moore engages in conversations with air travelers. “People are really nice,” she opined. “Honestly. Sometimes I really do talk to people and have a nice conversation. I do talk to women with children a lot because you feel for them. If someone sits next to me with a baby I’m going to talk to her ‘cause I’ve been there.”
It is Liam Neeson’s persona, in addition to his acting chops, that has made him into an action hero phenom says co-star Julianne Moore. “I think that audiences respond to Liam the way they do because he presents a very humane, sensitive, complicated person; a real person who then becomes the hero. So it’s not like a superhuman hero coming in [to save you] because Superman is not even a real person. Liam represents a real person and he brings a real sense of authenticity to all his characters.”
Nate Parker, Lupita Nyong’o, Corey Hawkins, and Michelle Dockery are also on the flight set to fly into theaters on Friday, February 28.
Syndicated columnist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]