Liam Neeson on Playing Iconic Detective Philip Marlowe in New Neil Jordan Film
Liam Neeson celebrated his 100th film “Marlowe” during a special screening Wednesday night at New York City’s Crosby Street Hotel.
“How did I get so lucky? Do you ever get moments like that? Where you think, if I was 15 years of age in a chemistry class or a math lesson in school, and someone showed you a video of where you are now — you’d say, ‘I don’t believe it,’” Neeson told Variety. “Especially working with Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming, Diane Kruger. It’s just a great cast.”
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Based on John Banville’s novel “The Black-Eyed Blonde,” the neo-noir crime thriller follows Raymond Chandler’s iconic detective Philip Marlowe (Neeson), who is hired to find heiress Clare Cavendish’s (Diane Kruger) missing former lover.
Although the private eye has been portrayed by such screen veterans as Humphrey Bogart, Elliott Gould and Robert Mitchum, Neeson “didn’t feel intimidated by these other actors, as great as they were.”
“Growing up in the north of Ireland, on my TV screen in our living room. Every Sunday afternoon, there seemed to be a film noir. Someone with their trench coat turned up and the Shelby hat and the rain pouring down,” Neeson said. “So I feel like I have grown up with that kind of character.”
Neeson and director Neil Jordan watched a series of noir films to prepare for “Marlowe,” particularly those adapted from Chandler’s work like 1946’s “The Big Sleep” and 1973’s “The Long Goodbye.”
“We watched everything in the noir library, let’s put it that way,” Jordan explained. “And I just wanted to make a film that was saturated with color. I didn’t want to make a black-and-white movie, I didn’t want to make a movie that was full of shadows, and I didn’t even want to approximate the color palette to something that looked like a black-and-white film.”
On working with longtime collaborator Jordan, Neeson recalled a moment he shared with the director on set of their first film together: the 1988 comedy “High Spirits.”
“It was a bleak Monday morning at Shepperton Studios in London. Freezing and of course, those studios in London — they have no heat, they have no air conditioning. I was semi-naked, covered in sparkly dust, and we did a take. Neil comes in like, ‘Liam, could you be funnier?’” he said with a laugh. “So his direction has gotten better over the years. I can tell when he comes from behind the monitor — he’s chewing his inner gum — I know he’s gonna say something, he’s got a note. We have this kind of shorthand language.”
“It’s great to have an actor you can actually share burgeoning ideas with,” Jordan said, teasing their next project together, titled “The Riker’s Ghost.”
“Marlowe” is in theaters now.
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