Entrevista exclusiva en inglés con Liam Neeson, protagonista de la película Non Stop.

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When Liam Neeson first read through the script of Non-Stop he could see exactly how the movie had earned its title. “It was so full of suspense that it was a total Non-Stop read,” he says. “It held me in its grip from start to finish.”

Neeson plays Bill Marks, a reluctant air marshal with a fear of flying. “Strangely, given his job, he’s a bit of an air-phobic. And, on top of that, he picks the flight from hell,” the actor laughs.

“I don’t want to give too much away – but there’s somebody on the flight who’s out to prove something and everyone on board becomes a suspect. My character keeps getting texts on his special telephone saying that unless a vast sum of money is paid into an unnamed account someone on board is going to die every 20 minutes, which sure enough they do. There are definitely going to be a few thrills and spills before the closing credits.”

Non-Stop is the second time that Neeson has worked with the director Jaume Collet-Serra. They first collaborated on the 2011 thriller, Unknown, and enjoyed the experience so much they were keen to repeat it.

“I loved working with Jaume because he’s not a dictator, not a shouter and screamer,” Neeson explains. “He’s a great guy and a sweet man to be around. And he just gets on with the job very quietly and methodically.

“On top of that, he’s also got an incredible director’s eye and a real sense of what’s needed to tell a story in an entertaining fashion while developing tension and pace. But he never lets the action entirely overshadow the characters. So Bill Marks is a very three-dimensional action hero.”

Indeed, the actor and the director worked together on the original script, fleshing Marks out to give him greater depth.
“We layered on all kinds of small things,” says Neeson. “When we first meet him, he’s trying to come to terms with the death of his child and he has hit the bottle pretty hard.

“He used to be in the New York Police Department, so working as an air marshal now is a bit of a demotion. But it’s also a last chance to prove himself as an officer of the law, of sorts and, like it or not, he’s going to be tested to his limits.”

In Non-Stop Neeson leads an all star cast that includes Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Anson Mount, Linus Roache and Nate Parker. Filming of the movie presented its own unique challenges for cast and crew, he says.

“Well, 99 percent of it is shot on board the plane itself. We’ve had a couple of days on location at JFK airport, but the rest of the action takes place in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a plane that’s flying at 40,000 feet and we’ve had a brilliant replica of the inside of the aircraft built in a New York studio to work in.

“It’s meant that Jaume has had to be very creative about he way that he’s filming, and has been using various special camera rigs. In one particular sequence we’ve filmed 10 pages of dialogue in one big take in which the camera follows me around, going from suspect to suspect. It was pretty intense but it was a wonderful feeling of achievement at the end of it.”

Space constraints also make the role physically demanding for the 6ft 4ins star. A fight scene in the narrow confines of the aircraft bathroom, for example, was particularly challenging.

“To add to the problem, the other guy was quite big too,” he laughs. “At one point I had to bash up against a mirror, which shatters during the fight. You’re not aware of being hurt at the time because the adrenaline kicks in. But you do see a bruise or two later on and think, ‘How did I get that?’

“But it’s all good fun and there are great stunt guys for the really difficult stuff. Mind you, there are times when you’re being dragged across the floor or during a fight scene with a bunch of the passengers who attack me at one point because they think I’m the hijacker and you do think. ‘Am I getting a little bit too old for this?’”

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Now aged 60, there are no signs of the Irish born actor slowing down. His career spans more than three decades and includes stand out roles in the movies, Schindler’s List, Star Wars, Michael Collins, Five Minutes of Heaven and Kinsey.

Next up, he’ll be seen in the Paul Haggis movie, Third Person, a study of three modern couples in different parts of the globe. Then, later this year, he is due to provide the voice for a character called ‘Bad Cop’ in the animated family-friendly adventure, Lego: The Piece of Resistance as well as starring in the 2014 movie thriller, A Walk Among the Tombstones.

His work across the globe means that, like the character he plays in Non-Stop, he often finds himself on planes. Since filming the movie he has developed a true respect for air marshals.

Introduced to plane travel post 9-11 they are there to prevent further terrorist attacks. “But aside from tackling potential hijackers they also have to protect all the innocent passengers on board,” says Neeson.

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“They have to keep things calm and under control because if mass panic sets in at 40,000 feet the consequence could be dire.”
To help him play the part of Marks convincingly the actor spent time with a member of the Special Forces who trains air marshals. Yet, the actor says, he is still not sure that he could spot a real air marshal on board a real life flight. “They are very good at traveling incognito, of course,” he says. “It’s part of the job.

“Mind you,” he adds, “I did stop two guys after a flight about five years ago. You know how it is, you’re sitting on an airplane and you’re bored and you just observe people. And I’d been watching them. So, after we landed I said, ‘Forgive me, but I’m an actor and I like observing people. Are you an air marshal?’

“And it turned out one of them was although the other guy was a teacher! I was only 50 percent right,” he laughs. “So I’m probably a better actor than I am a detective.”

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On set Q and A follows:
Q: You’ve been doing a scene where your character is dragged through the aisles as the plane hits turbulence. Has it been a tough day at the office?
A: Yes, I’m getting a bit old for this (laughter)..

Q: Do they let you do all the stunts yourself?
A: No, no, no. I’ve got a great stunt guy

Q: Tell us about the character you play?
A: Bill Marks is an air marshal and when we first meet him he’s trying to come to terms with the death of his child and he has hit the bottle pretty hard. He used to be in the New York Police Department, so working as an air marshal now is a bit of a demotion. But it’s also a last chance to prove himself as an officer of the law, of sorts and, like it or not, he’s going to be tested to his limits.

Q: But he’s an air marshal who doesn’t like to fly, isn’t he?
A: Yes, strangely, given his job, he’s a bit of an air-phobic. And, on top of that, he picks the flight from hell. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s somebody on the flight who’s out to prove something and everyone on board becomes a suspect. My character keeps getting texts on his special telephone saying that unless a vast sum of money is paid into an unnamed account someone on board is going to die every 20 minutes, which sure enough they do. There are definitely going to be a few thrills and spills before the closing credits.

Q: It’s a great premise, isn’t it? A thriller happening in a claustrophobic confined space in which everyone could be a suspect.
A: Yes and when I first read the script, it was a Non-Stop read. It was so full of suspense that it was a total Non-Stop read. It held me in its grip from start to finish.

Q: So do you go all Sherlock Holmes about who could be responsible for the killings?
A: No, there are special techniques that these air marshals have if they encounter a problem with passengers. They’re well trained and so we get to frisk people and search their phones and look at previous text messages and do stuff like that.

Q: The director, Jaume Collet-Serra, said you worked on developing the character together a lot. Is that right?
A: Yes, we did. We tried to make him a lot more three-dimensional than the usual action character. We layered on all kinds of small things so that he became a much more fleshed out character between the first reading of the script and now

Q: And did you find that there was still plenty of room for that, despite the fact that it’s such an action packed movie?
A: Yes, definitely, I think so, and it will be great if we pull it off because 99 percent of the movie is on board the plane.

Q: Does that make it more challenging?
A: Yes. We had a couple of days on location at JFK but the rest of the action takes place in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a plane that’s flying at 40,000 feet and we’ve had a brilliant replica of the inside of the aircraft built in a New York studio to work in.
It’s meant that Jaume has had to be very creative about the way that he’s filming, including the use of various special camera rigs. Also, in one sequence we’ve filmed 10 pages of dialogue in one big take in which the camera follows me around, going from suspect to suspect. It was pretty intense. But it was a wonderful feeling of achievement at the end of it.

Q: You and Jaume have worked very successfully before. What do you like about working with him?
A: I love working with Jaume because he’s not a dictator, not a shouter and screamer. He’s a great guy and a sweet man to be around. And he just gets on with the job very quietly and methodically. On top of that, he’s also got an incredible director’s eye and a real sense of what’s needed to tell a story in an entertaining fashion while developing tension and pace. But he never lets the action entirely overshadow the characters. So Bill Marks, for example, is a very three-dimensional action hero.

Q: Did you have an ex air marshal to advise on the film?
A: He wasn’t an air marshal; he was a Special Forces guy. But he’s trained air marshals.

Q: Would you now be able to spot an air marshal on a plane?
A: No, I don’t think I could. They are very good at traveling incognito, of course, because it’s part of the job. However, I did stop two guys after a flight about five years ago. You know how it is, you’re sitting on an airplane and you’re bored and you just observe people. And I’d been watching them. So, after we landed I said, ‘Forgive me, but I’m an actor and I like observing people. Are you an air marshal?’ And it turned out one of them was although the other guy was a teacher! I was only 50 percent right. So I’m probably a better actor than I am a detective (laughs).

Q: And do you have any inside information about how many flights still have air marshals on board?
A: No, not at all. I don’t know how many of them fly on international flights now with security at airports being so strict but I should imagine they’ve been cut down a lot since they first introduced them after September 11.

Q: What’s the most important part of the job?
A: Well, I suppose that, if you’re tackling someone on an airplane, you also have to be protective of all the innocent people on board. So, you’re constantly shouting instructions at them: keep down, don’t move. But along with shouting commands at them you also have to reassure them. You have to keep things under control because you don’t want panic to set in.

Q: You have a fight in one of the bathrooms. That can’t have been easy to shoot for a man as tall as you?
A: No, it wasn’t and to add to the problem the other guy was quite big too! It was quite intense. We also did a great fight scene with some of the passengers who attacked me in the movie because they think I’m the hijacker.

Q: We saw you being dragged across the floor a couple of times. What did the film put you through in terms of stunts? Did you suffer any injuries?
A: They had me bash up against a fake mirror that shatters during the bathroom fight. You’re not aware of being hurt at the time, because the adrenaline kicks in, but you do see a bruise of two later and think, ‘How did I get that?’ But it’s all good fun and there are great stunt guys for all the really difficult stuff.

Q: You’ve worked with Julianne Moore before…
A: Yes, I’d worked with Julianne who is great but I hadn’t worked with the other guys at all. And I haven’t seen Michelle’s show, Downtown Abbey, yet although I’ve got the first two series to watch. But both Michelle and Nate are wonderful to work with. It’s been a great experience – a fantastic director, strong cast, and a cracking story. I’ve really enjoyed it.

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ENDS