Run All Night reunites Liam Neeson with his Unknown and Non-Stop director Jaume Collet-Serra for another high-concept action film - this time set in the urban jungle of NYC, during one incredibly long chase, over one incredibly violent night.
Neeson plays ex-hit man Jimmy Conlon, who spends his days under the wing of his (literal) partner in crime, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), getting drunk and trying to forget sins of the past. Things take a sharp turn when Jimmy's estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) takes an ill-fated chauffeur gig that leaves him witness to a murder perpetrated by Danny (Boyd Holbrook), Shawn's reckless and violent son.
When Danny comes looking to take Mike out of the picture, Jimmy is forced to do the unthinkable and kill his best friend's only son. That decision puts Jimmy on Shawn's hit list - and in the sights of the methodical and ruthless contract killer, Andrew Price (Common).
We attended the NYC Junket for Run All Night, where we got to talk with Common about everything from creating a frightening assassin character, to what it feels like being an Oscar-winner for Selma; what his future plans are for his musical career; and the very real possibility that he could one day add Tony and Emmys to his Grammy and Oscar wins, making him a true EGOT achiever.
Let me just say, what is it with your face that people want to disfigure? I’m a huge fan of “Hell on Wheels”. That bear did a real number on you. Then they burn your face half off in this one.
Common: I don’t know why they do that to me. But I guess they don’t like my face sometime, so they do me like that. but this was fun. This movie was like…even having that burn at a certain point, it gave juice to the character. It gave me want to go at Liam Neeson’s character even more because he was the person that did it. It’s like, “OK. I’m really going to get this guy.” So all that helped in building the character. But unfortunately, yeah, it definitely takes a couple extra hours in the makeup chair though.
We don’t give much of a backstory on you. When you said you would kill [Liam Neeson's character] for no money at all, why is that?
Common: It was a conflict going on between my character and Jimmy from the past. It really wasn’t written in the script, but we had to come up with that backstory that Jimmy’s team had did something…I couldn’t take him out, but he had did something to some guys that I knew. So I did really have a liking for him.
But as you see, Price, though, doesn’t really like too many people. It doesn’t feel like that, right?
How do you prepare for this kind of role, Common? Because it was just so evil and so angry. We were thinking about you from Selma, and then you go to Price. How do you even mentally prepare for that?
Common: For me, that’s the joy of acting. You get to go and do characters. You might play a pastor at one point that’s conflicted, and you may play a science teacher. You may pay this dude, Price, that’s like a relentless assassin that’s the super villain. Then you get to play James Bevel or a civil rights leader. That’s the joy of acting.
And how I go there is I work as an actor continuing to study and grow, working with my coach. And at the same token, these dark characters, you figure out how do you get there? Because we all have dark and light in us, too. And at the same token, I do research and work with the directors. I worked with Jaume and we talked about what type of villain would this be? Because we didn’t want the stock villain. We didn’t want the stereotypical killer. This guys’ a high-tech assassin. He’s wearing those glasses and a trench coat and a little sweater. He look kinda preppy, almost nerdy, in a way, which is cool. I love that about the character.
But then inside of him, you’ve got to find out what’s in the mind of somebody who is willing to murder this many people and take a joy in it.
And one thing that is not in the movie that was written in the script is that you first find him at an S&M club. So that automatically informs…
That was going to be my question. Where were you coming from?
Common: They just cut that actual part. But it was like an S&M room. And it was kinda crazy filming it. That was the first scene I filmed. [laughs]
You didn’t get lost in there, did you?
Common: [Laughing] No. I got out of there. When I was through filming…It was something, man.
Can you speak about shooting those large-scale action scenes? You are in the building. The building is on fire. People are running out of the building. Can you speak about that experience?
Common: First of all, one thing you get used to is anytime you are in a movie where night…you are shooting throughout the night every night, right? So we would shoot these late nights. The action would be a lot of fun. But you just had to get used to being on the schedule of starting at eight at night and then shooting till the morning.
With that being said, those scenes were a lot of fun because there was a lot of fight scenes in it, and then choreography and just chasing…you know, you are just chasing people and going through the buildings, like turning the lights off. And we were in the projects, too, so it felt real authentic. I love getting that.
One thing I really love about “Run All Night” is that you feel like New York is a character. You feel New York, the gritty part of New York and the rawness of New York. It adds to the story. Because sometimes when you see movies and it’s supposed to be New York, and they shoot it in Toronto or somewhere else, you don’t really get the truth of New York. With this you really feel the truth. Everything feels authentic, like the relationships between the father and son and these best friends that now have to go at each other.
Even Price with his robotic style is…you still feel authentic.
Your interactions with Liam are all pretty much wordless. The exchange is more of bullets than words. When they yelled cut, did you guys sort of laugh about what you were doing?
Common: When they yelled cut, we would talk about theatre and talk about all type of stuff. We were just having fun, really. And I would also learn from him, too. He was telling me different things and showing me different tricks. I was like, “Wow. This is really good. I’m learning from the best.”
What kind of tricks?
Common: I can’t give away the tricks! These are tricks from one of the greatest actors we got. So I gotta take that and use that. Tricks to deal with fighting and those things, and dealing with the acting.
The man has had a personal stuntman for 10 or 12 years or something.
Common: But he gets it in.
That’s like having a personal chef or a trainer or something.
Common: Yeah, exactly. Ultimately, he knows exactly what to do. He knows how to do it well, with excellence. That’s why when you watch those movies, you at least appreciate what he’s doing. You appreciate the fighting. And I say at least because it’s like some of the action movies that you see, it is primarily fighting and things like that. the one great thing about “Run All Night” is you get the fight, you get the action, but you really get a story. You get some emotion. You get a good feel.
You’re a rare kind of artist who may be in a position in their lifetime to actually EGOT (Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony). Did you hold that as a personal aspiration?
Common: I definitely want an EGOT.
You got the EGO now?
Common: I didn’t get the EGO yet because I didn’t get an Emmy yet. But I’ll take an EGO. I’ll take an EGO and then get to the EGOT. But I definitely am looking at my trajectory. I want to do Broadway. Definitely, like I said, I’m doing a television project that I’m hoping will be high quality enough to garner that type of attention of Emmy’s and stuff. But yeah, I want that. [laughs]
Just looking at the world now and looking at mid-2000s, where I was [your album "BE"] was released. Where are you kind of thematically musically right now? What’s kind of going on in your head? What are you working on?
Common: I’m really enthused to write music now. I feel more free and more powerful than I ever have as far as writing music. With that being said, some of my inspiration is to write music that is obviously going to move the world, and also write music that may be accompanied with other things, like a film project. Not even just writing for a movie that’s produced, but say I write an album and we do a film based around that. I’m thinking about music in different ways, not just saying, “OK. I’m going to release an album.” I’m like, “OK. I might do these eight songs and it’s accompanied by a short film and we write a book, and then we put it on Broadway.”
Those are the things that’s inspiring me to keep creating music.
A greater synergy.
Do you think that is where the music industry is heading generally? It’s not about albums anymore, and Taylor Swift was like the only million seller. Stuff seems to be tied in, and where there are albums, they are there to promote a tour or something else.
Common: I think music artists definitely have understood that you have to have something besides just an album. You are not going to be able to survive off just album sales. You hope to be well-rounded enough to go out and perform, be a great performer and do shows, but then you may also have to have other ideas and other creations, because the music is only going to…It’s going to get you paid, but so much. But it is a way to make a living off it. If it’s what you love to do…I encourage artists to keep pursuing it, just find ways to diversify and create more commerce, but make the best music possible.
Well I guess you have to "GO" now.
Common: Have to "GO" [Laughs], I like that.
Run All Night will be in theaters everywhere on Friday, March 13th.