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 acting icons Liam Neeson and Ed Harris - who incidentally had never worked together before this film. In our discussion, we touched on how the film business has changed; what it was like bringing theatrical gravitas to a high-octane action flick; how it is getting action work at this late stage in their careers; and what the future holds.
You know, there’s an old saying “There’s nothing like a mother’s love”. Should there be an addendum to that [after this movie], “There’s nothing like mother’s AND father’s love”?
Liam Neeson: Well, there is nothing like a mother’s love. It’s true.
What about the father’s?
Liam: Yeah, there’s nothing like a father’s love, too. Sometimes you have to find it, search for it. But it’s there. A lot of fathers just can’t find those words, can they? “I love you, son,” or, “I love you, my darling.” They can say it to their daughters with a lot more ease, I think, than they can to their sons. I’m just speaking generally.
What do you think, Ed, about that saying, “There’s nothing like a mother’s love?”
Ed Harris: Well, I think there’s obviously something to it because the mother gave birth to the child. So it’s even more intimate than a father’s relationship with…and just biologically. But yeah, I mean I have a daughter who’s 21. I don’t think anybody could love anybody more than I love her.
A lot of the scenes you two have together, most action films, if you took away the gunplay and the car chases and everything, there would be nothing left. If you took way all that in this movie, there would be you two. One killed another’s son. The other is intent on killing the other’s. they’re sort of having a discourse about it. It’s almost Greek, like David Mamet could write it.
Ed: It does have a classic quality to it, doesn’t it?
Yeah. I mean when you look at something like this on the page, does it kind of remind you of that? Are those the things you key on?
Ed: I haven’t done…Liam has had such great success with the “Taken” films... I haven’t really done those kinds of movies so much. So when I read [Run All Night], one of the things that attracted me was the fact that I get the chance to work with this man and actually sit down and…you know, these two guys have a relationship and they deal with something, obviously, and the relationship changes dramatically in the course of the film. That was exciting to me.
Liam: I think you touched on it. I think there is a mythic quality to it. You see these relationships in an angles-based script. I’ve seen the film once and I love what Ed and I are doing. I love that chemistry we have as characters.
I think once that’s strong and audience believe in that, then you can take the action anywhere. It’s not just tacked on for padding. It’s all connected. And with so much at stake. I’ve killed his son and he’s coming after my son.
And once you give the audience that rooted emotional heart, the world is your oyster after that as long as you are not too silly with it. More often than not, there are a lot of action films and action directors that tend to forget that. they kind of insult audiences by thinking, “Oh, they’re not interested in the talking scenes. Let’s get to the car chase.” They are missing out big time.
One thing I thought was really, really interesting about this movie was this kind of repeating theme about pain and what we do with pain—spread it, or contain it, or try and hold it together, and how the different characters dealt with these ideas. Was this something, when you guys were forming your characters, was this a choice for them or did the nature and the kind of instinct and the circumstances just instantly kind of drive their choices?
Ed: I think the latter. And the culture they grew up in and how you deal with certain things all kind of dictates their behavior, in a way.
It’s kind of a given now that the bulk of the market is, as I say, tentpole films and action films and that sort of thing, to the expense of the films that, perhaps, both of you first became known for. Ed, that being the case, should we look toward making those tentpole films smarter?
Ed: That would be nice.
Yeah? That’s about all there is to say about that?
Liam: It would be nice. George Lucas and various other individuals, they are like Jules Verne. They’ve taken this camera over the past 100 years, which really hasn’t changed much, and this whole CGI stuff with the computers is phenomenal what they can do.
However, and I’m speaking very, very general, is the script writers, all the really good ones, are going to television. Because of the tentpole marquees, there’s just no room for great dialogue. You know what I mean? So they’ll go to the FX channel or Netflix, or HBO especially, and Showtime where writers can develop arcs of characters over a long period of time…
Has that carrot been dangled in front of you?
Liam: Not yet. But I certainly wouldn’t scorn it, no.... Ed and I have been talking. I’ve got an Apple TV now and catching up on all these shows. The level of writing is fantastic, you don’t see in most pictures now, studio pictures.
You’ve talked about this a lot, about this transition you made to an action star in your 60’s. is there now a sort of other level you look for, like in this movie when they all have a lot of the same elements, and so what do you look for beyond that?
Liam: Well, I mean Brad’s script is very, very rich. It seemed to be a throwback to films I certainly grew up with, ‘60s, ‘70s.
Liam: I mean there’s a whole series of Sidney Lumet films that are fantastic, where he dealt with the police. What’s the one with Nick Nolte? I was just thinking about it in my last interview, Sidney Lumet made it. Fuck. Timothy Hutton, I think, and Nick Nolte is a big corrupt policeman... This script has that flavor to it. [Ed Note: The Film is "Q&A"]
You have worked with the director, Jaume, before. Is this the first time you are working with the director, Jaume? Can you both speak about reuniting with him and collaborating with him? Because he seems to have great vision.
Liam: He does. He has a vision. I trust him. This is our third outing together. We’re hoping to do another one in the next two years.
Ed: It was great coming into a situation where I knew that they had worked together before and they had a comfortability with each other. Yeah, so there just was a familiarity between them, so it was nice to just become part of that. it wasn’t like Jaume had to get used to working with two new people. they knew each other. They had a language together. I felt welcomed into that. it was a good situation.
Also, this is a very New York tale. New York is a character in the film. Can you both speak about working in this great city?
Liam: It is great.
Liam: I’ve lived here for over 21 years now. It’s terrific to not just work in the city, but explore areas where we shot this, especially, that I’ve never been in before. And wrap and come back to your own bed is a particular luxury.
I just noticed Nick Nolte’s bio there. Have you [ever worked with him] before?
Ed: First time.
How long have you been aware of each other’s work? What was the first movie of Liam’s you might of noticed, and of Ed’s?
Liam: Oh, my god…
Ed: I certainly remember “Schindler’s List”. There was probably something before that, but that was the first time I went, “Wow. Who is this? This guy’s fucking great.”
Liam: “Right Stuff”. I know there was stuff before that. “State of Grace” I remember was particularly good.
Is there a community, like sort of a grapevine, when you find out you are working with each other, people you know, know the other person?
Liam: Oh, it’s a village. Absolutely.
Ed: I think we know a bunch of people in common, yeah. But we hadn’t met prior to working on this movie.
So what was that meeting like?
Liam: It was hell. [laughs]
Ed: It was fine. Like, “Hello. Nice to meet you.” [laughs]
Kind of building off that, you guys have a lot of scenes in this movie, but for me, one of the biggest scenes was when you go to the restaurant to meet and have a conversation with him. I was thinking back, like, this could be another one of those “Heat” scenes, where we see two very accomplished, iconic actors sitting down for this very intense scene. Can you guys talk about filming that?
Liam: It was a well-written scene. Jaume knew how he wanted to shoot it, which was kind of us at the table and we would go around us on a track. We did maybe three takes.
Liam: Yep. Very, very quick. The scene kind of took care of us. We just didn’t stand in the way of the scene, if you know what I mean. We were in a real restaurant…
Ed: It’s the kind of thing where you know it’s an important scene in the film. And so, the less important you make it, in a way, the better it’s going to be. You don’t want to get so hyped up for it that you are pushing something or trying to do something that doesn’t need to be done. It’s like you accept the reality of the situation and play the scene together and see what happens.
Liam: Yeah. That’s the way.
Being iconic actors such as yourselves, did you have any advice for young actors like Common on this set?
Ed: Listen. It's always helpful, to listen.
Liam: I had a fight scene with Common. It’s late at night when you’re doing these things, and there were flames and stuff. It wasn’t comfortable. But I would speak to Common…And it was actually a note to myself, just to relax. If you are about to start something and you start stiffening up, that’s when you can get hurt. So I’d say to him, “Common, let’s just relax.” But it was a note to me.
Can you speak about working with [Joel Kinnaman]? Because you guys have a lot of great scenes together.
Liam: He’s terrific. I hadn’t met him before. I had seen a couple of Swedish films that were sent to me. Then I saw some episodes of “Missing”, the American version. I thought he was very, very good. We get along very well with each other. There were no big discussions. We just played the scenes. And again, Ingelsby had written terrific dialogue. He’s very good. No, we’ve become pals.
[Ed], I mean there were action films that you’ve been in, per se - your early work with James Cameron - I mean it wasn’t explosions or anything. Did you see that sort of palpably change on the movie landscape over the last decade? Was there a point where, “Well, this one involves a lot of running,” where you saw scripts like that…where what was being pushed as the next big thing seemed to change in front of your eyes?
Liam: From doing “Abyss”…?
From doing The Abyss to stuff where…
Ed: You mean personally, or what was happening [in the industry]?…
I would imagine what comes across your desk reflects what’s out there.
Ed: I don’t know, man. I’ve done so many movies that nobody has seen. So my finger is not necessarily on the pulse of anything other than what seems interesting to me and people I want to work with. So I don’t really have any overview. I mean we all know that the movie business has changed and that the studio films that are being made are geared to sequels and this and that and tentpole things. I don’t know what your question is, exactly.
I don’t know if you ever had an offer that was obviously commercial…
Ed: No. I haven’t been sent like a “Taken” kind of thing where it was a lead guy in an “action” film. It does not come across my desk…
The scene that you and Liam shared at the end…so that’s not usual for you to have a gun and…
Ed: It’s different. I directed a western called “Appaloosa”. It was all about justice, violence, etcetera. I just don’t know how to answer your question because I’m not sure what it is.
You answered it when you said you’ve never been offered a “Taken”.
What motivates you guys now? You guys are such iconic actors. You guys have a legacy already. What motivates you to keep on getting up and making new films?
Liam: Ed was talking earlier, and I agree—we’re still passionate about what we do. That little period between action and cut is very, very precious. Ed loves it. I love it, too. That’s what, I think, keeps the pair of us going.
Ed: Yeah. They can send it to me, please. You know what I’m saying. I wouldn’t mind. I’ve never been that kind of…I’ve never had that kind of career. The biggest roles I’ve had I’ve created myself, basically—“Pollock”, “Appaloosa”, leading roles in films.
They’ve been great roles.
Ed: You know. So, it’s different. I’m just riding on this dude’s coattails in this one, man. I’ll join the f*cking train.
Ed: I’ll be happy to.
Run All Night will be in theaters everywhere on Friday, March 13th.