Liam Neeson Talks ‘Marlowe’ and Seth MacFarlane’s ‘The Naked Gun’ Reboot

Feb 15, 2023

For Liam Neeson’s 100th film, the Academy Award-nominee will join the esteemed list of actors to portray private detective, Philip Marlowe, in filmmaker Neil Jordan’s upcoming crime thriller, Marlowe. From his earliest days on the theater stage to his numerous roles across various genres, Neeson is now a household name in Hollywood. Well-known for his action-packed roles in blockbusters like Taken and The Grey, he’s also touched our hearts in Love Actually, founds his place among the stars as Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, and so many more.

Reuniting with Jordan, Neeson’s hundredth feature, Marlowe, is inspired by author John Banville’s novel The Black Eyed Blonde and is a film noir that takes place in 1930s Los Angles. When private detective Philip Marlowe is approached by Clare Cavendish, played by Diane Kruger, to track down her missing lover, the detective is dragged into more than he originally bargained for. It turns out this missing lover is a hot commodity around town, and Marlowe’s investigation is beginning to make others squirm. The further he digs, the more trouble Marlowe turns up in this Old Hollywood mystery. Marlowe features an all-star cast of suspicious and dangerous characters that includes Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming, Colm Meaney, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Danny Huston.

During an interview with Collider’s Steve Weintraub, Neeson spoke to us about why this role is so special to him, following in the footsteps of Hollywood greats like Humphrey Bogart, and getting to work with Neil Jordan for the fourth time. He discusses working previously with Marlowe’s screenwriter William Monahan on 2005’s Kingdom of Heaven, his long-time friendship with actor and co-star Colm Meaney, and their other upcoming film together, In the Land of Saints and Sinners. Neeson also confirms a Naked Gun reboot with Seth MacFarlane attached to write and teases a new action thriller, Retribution, alongside Avatar: The Way of Water’s Jack Champion.

COLLIDER: I definitely have to ask, is Naked Gun going to be in your future? Is that something that might actually happen?

LIAM NEESON: Yes, we’re waiting on a script. Yeah, we’re hoping it’ll happen this year, maybe in the summertime.

Oh, so this is like a real “go” project? Like a priority?

NEESON: Yes, Paramount Studios, I think. I approached Seth MacFarlane. He and his team are working on it, the scripts. So, we’re hoping to go in the summertime.

I absolutely want this to happen. So fingers crossed.

NEESON: It’ll be the end of my career, I’d say.

No, I think this could be a great one. So jumping into why I get to talk to you. This is your 100th film, and what’s cool about it is it gets to be a role like Marlowe, which is just, you know, it’s Marlowe. So what did it mean to you to be able, for the 100th movie, to be a character like this?

NEESON: I mean, if I go back to being a child many, many years ago in the North of Ireland, Sunday afternoon watching film noir, I remember, especially [Humphrey] Bogart, The Big Sleep I think it was, and I was intrigued. I couldn’t, at that age, follow the stories, but there was something magical about it, you know? Shadowy figures, murky, shady characters, and stuff that really attracted me. So, to get the chance to play Marlowe along with Robert Mitchum, and I idolized Elliott Gould, and Bogart, of course. I feel very honored, and to get a chance to work with (director) Neil Jordan again. This is our fourth film together.

One of the things I love about the genre is that everyone that’s on screen, ultimately they’re all shades of gray. You just don’t know if they’re good, they’re bad, what their ultimate motivation is. So, I’m curious for you, when you’re reading a script like that, how much are you told in advance exactly what’s going to happen, and how much is Neil telling you, or (writer) William Monahan saying to you, “Just read it.”?

NEESON: Well, I knew Bill’s work from, obviously, [Martin] Scorsese’s Departed, and he scripted the film I was in about the Crusades called Kingdom of Heaven. So, I know Bill is a very, very top-class, fine writer, and Neil is a terrific writer, too, and he usually writes and directs his own stuff. But the fact that he and Bill Monahan were together, working on the plot, was just too good to be true.

I think, from the original script that Bill had done – I’m sure you know it’s based on The Black Eyed Blonde by John Banville, a wonderful writer, Irish – I think Bill had set in the 1950s, or the novel was set in the 1950s, forgive me. But Neil wanted to play with the ‘30s and bring Hollywood into it, you know, 1938, ‘39. That just made the script very, very rich, and lots of levels along with the crime aspect, you know?

Image via Open Road Films

One of the things the film does well is casting actors you know in supporting roles. So you really don’t know who the person, or people, could be that are pulling the strings.

NEESON: That’s good, that’s good, isn’t it? I personally love that scene in a movie where you think, “Oh, I know him from this. Oh, I’ve seen her in this…” And you’re right, it does raise the ante thinking, “Oh, he’s the killer! No, no, no, maybe she is. Maybe they’re in league together, or something,” You know?

I’m a big fan of Colm Meaney, and you got to work with him on this, and I think you’re working with him in In the Land of Saints and Sinners.

NEESON: We’ve done that, yeah. I’ve known Colm since his theatre days in Ireland, over 40 years ago.

Yeah, I’m a big fan of his work. I first saw him on Star Trek. So can you talk a little bit about working with him? Because he comes across as a very no-nonsense guy.

NEESON: Absolutely. But, look, as I say, I’ve known Colm for 40 years, you know? Our theatre days in Dublin. So I was thrilled when Neil told me he was going to be cast in the part as the police detective. He’s no-nonsense, but we still, between setups, we share jokes, or we talk about someone in Ireland that we both knew that may have passed away or is remarried or something like that. And then the camera’s rolling action and Colm just goes straight into it, you know, and I love that. I love that. It’s just a lovely ease. Professionalism, too, of course. But he’s terrific, Colm.

I know that there are two films, I believe, you’ve shot already, which is Retribution and In the Land of Saints and Sinners. Retribution sounds cool because it’s all in one car. Can you talk about both of those roles, and what drew you to those projects?

NEESON: With Retribution I’d worked with the producers. We’ve done three films together, and I was shooting again in Berlin, which is a city I love. I’ve done trains, airplanes… It was time to do something in the car, so I spent 95% of the movie in a car with my two kids in the back seat, and, of course, there’s a bomb under my car seat. So if I get up, or if the kids get up, it’s the end of the movie. It was exciting and very interesting to play a thriller like that where I’m literally almost immobile. It was certainly a challenge. But yeah, it’s coming out sometime this year.

In the Land of Saints and Sinners, it’s set. We shot it at Donegal with my dear best friend Ciarán Hinds, who you may remember from Belfast and Kin, and other things. And Colm, Colm’s in it too. We finished it last year towards the end of May. I think it’ll be a good film. Robert Lorenz, that I’d worked with before on a film called The Marksman, he directed it. Good script and a bit of action, different sort of action. Set in Northern Ireland in the ‘70s when things were very, very, rough, and very challenging.

Marlowe is in theaters beginning February 15.

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