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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actors > Feature Interviews K to O > Liam Neeson (2004 interview)

Liam Neeson

Investigates More Than His Soul in Kinsey

by Brad Balfour

Copyright © 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 17, 2004.

Oscar-winning actor Liam Neeson doesnít shy away from tough roles. When he took on Oskar Schindler for Steven Spielberg, he faced a challenge but now that he's tackled Kinsey, he has handled some difficult tasks for award-winning director Bill Condonóaging 30 years, sounding distinctly American and performing several homosexual loves scenes. But this Irish-born actor has met other challenges beforeó from playing dark anti-heroes to landing a key role in Star Wars. While he will star in another classic hero tale, Batman Begins, the early praise for Kinsey suggests that he will be a contender for another Oscar.

Youíve done, a few films where youíve played real people.  What draws you to historical films and the realm of nonfiction?

Well, Iíve made 44 films and four times Iíve played real characters. Iím just drawn to people who have a  pioneer spirit, this extraordinary energy and commitment to their cause.  Thatís certainly true of Michael Collins, Schindler, and to a certain extent, most definitely, Alfred Kinsey. Maybe Iím drawn to them because Iím a lazy slob myself. I just love to see people with energy that just burn up their day with their quest for what theyíre after. 

What did you know of Kinsey before?

Very little. In my general reading in my Ď20s, I became aware of the Kinsey Reports and the effect they had of American society.  

What were the challenges for you to get into this character?

From an acting point of view, I bear no relation. I donít look like Alfred Kinsey at all, but thought somewhere in my artist, actorís soul, I could capture something of the spirit of the man. Then thereís obviously the accent, the way of walking, and thereís the age rangeóLaura and I have to go from 30 years of age up to 62. So we wanted to do that as subtly as possible,  and not draw attention to it.  At the [Kinseyís] Sex Institute in Bloomington, Indiana, they were a phenomenal help, too.  We went out there for a few days, and they gave us access to materials.  And the biographies, there are four or five, ranging from very poor to excellent.

What did you learn about Kinsey working on this film and what did you think about sexuality that you hadnít thought of before?

Just the variability of the sexual practices of the human species.  Kinseyís quest was for us all to be tolerant and accepting of each other.  So that rich tapestry is really quite extraordinary which I had never really contemplated before doing my research.  Also the times he was living in and the level of ignorance, especially with young  people [really struck me].  Kinsey was devoted to young  people.  There were surveys done in the Ď40s where 90% of high school boys didnít know that they male was responsible for having a baby with the woman. 95% never knew the word "masturbation". The whole  physiology of sex, a womanís menstrual cycle, was totally unknown to these boys  in the Ď40s. It was common  for girls in the Ď30s not to know where babies came from.  This is what Kinsey was confronted with, so he provided a springboard to do something about it.  He saw this awful gap in human knowledge that he wanted to fill.  

Do you think that Kinseyís thoughts on  homosexuality were skewered a bit by his being bisexual?

I donít think so.  Bear in mind that he had planned to write a whole series of books. The data he gathered from those eighteen years of interviews, they used a tenth of that data to write these two enormous volumes on male and female sexuality. In those days homosexuality was a pathological disease, and a crime; one of those things he did show was the prevalence of homosexuality, and indeed the penal code was altered because of these reports. But, you know, thereís still ten states that outlaw premarital sex, and many more where adultery is still a crime.

What kind of kisser is Peter Sarsgaard? 

Heís not bad.  Needs to shave a bit more.

He didnít think you were much good.  

[Laughs]

Who taught you about sex?

Toilet walls.

What was on them, any specific illustrations?

No, but they were crude, sort of strange Picasso-esque drawings of male and female. Thatís where I learned it from, and from my school chums. Terrible feelings of guilt, too, looking at these crude drawings, you know.  

Did this film bring you back to those days of sexual repression in Ireland?

Well it certainly made me think about how church and state are very much hand in glove, as James Joyce once said.  It had a total iron grip on the morals of the country, and I grew up in the 50ís.  Of course sex was never talked about and discussed

You've got a couple of young kids.  At what age would be all right for them to see this film?

I think theyíd be so bored if they watched this, but theyíll see it at some point, I think.  

And have they had sex education?

Weíve done it. Theyíre eight and nine, and a few months ago they started asking pertinent questions, so we had to tell them.

Do it have anything to do with you being in this film?

No, it came up the way it comes up naturally.  I didnít quiz them on stuff, they were asking the right questions.  

Any trepidation on your part?

Oh yeah, I thought Iíd be pipe-smoking, wearing a cardigan, "Come here by the fireplace," but I looked at my wife with pleading  eyes, "You go first."

Who went first?

She did.

What would Michael Collins think of Alfred Kinsey?

I think he would have admired him, his energy and his work ethic, definitely.

Are there other historic figures youíd like to play?

Iíd like to play Ian Paisley, actually.  Iíd need building up, though heís very frail now

Can you talk about Batman?

I canít talk about  it.

Well, what made you say yes to doing it?

Well, Thatís easyó[director] Christopher Nolan.  And the script is quite phenomenal, actually.

How was the shoot? 

They only wrapped a few weeks ago after seven months, I was on for like four.

What is your relationship with Bill Condon?

Very, very good.  Iíve been an admirer of his since Gods and Monsters, and heís one of the  few writer/directors Iíve worked with.  Certainly Neil Jordan, Woody Allen, Chris Nolan, exceptional people who are as gifted with a pen as they are with a camera.  

Lots of homework with [Condon]?

Lots of prep, and we were fortunate enough to have two weeks of rehearsal before we started shooting, which was a luxury.  You rarely get that.

Whatís next?

Iíve got this Ridley Scott film coming  out called Kingdom of Heaven about the second Crusades.  And I just finished this Neil Jordan film called Breakfast on Pluto coming out next year too.  Batmanís coming out in the  summer as well. 

So youíll be busy.

Well, doing a lot more of this probably.  

CLICK HERE TO SEE WHAT LIAM NEESON HAD TO SAY TO US IN 2016!

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Copyright © 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 17, 2004.

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Copyright © 2004 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 17, 2004.