Interview

Liam Neeson Discusses Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House

Oscar nominated actor Liam Neeson has been gracing our screens for a long time now, and throughout his career he’s taken on a wide variety of roles, in a wide variety of genres. Thanks to roles such as Oskar Schindler in “Schindler’s List” to “I have a very particular set of skills” agent Bryan Mills in the “Taken” series, Neeson has developed a wide fan base. For his latest film he plays Mark Felt, the FBI agent who helped bring down President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal. We had a chance to chat with Neeson during TIFF to talk about the film Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

How did you prepare for your role?
I started doing research on the whole period and what motivated this guy Mark Felt. I think Peter (director Peter Landesman) may see him more as a hero then I do. I’m not saying that what he did was wrong, or right, or heroic, but I think when he was overlooked to be head of FBI when Hoover died, it really hurt him, he really took it personally. What motivated him is very shades of grey. And then when they brought in Patrick Grey, who is an ex-submarine commander, that added another insult. Felt may have set out to embarrass Grey. That may have instigated certainly this whole Watergate thing. I think Felt saw early on that there was a real knot there that had to be undone. And frankly that is one of the first things he said, that Watergate is a knot and there is a way to untie it. And I think the other thing that upset Mark, was the fact that the White House wanted to interfere and stop the FBI’s investigation. It was like, what, nobody does that. So, his blood was up. Felt was also a very unprecedented man, you know. He wanted to protect the integrity of the FBI, very, very much so.

What did you think about Mark Felt?
Mark Felt was kind of unreadable. And that was a professional thing that he learned over many years. I was talking with his grandson about that, and I said, he seemed to be, in interviews I’ve seen, quite charming but unreadable. And his grandson said, ‘he could be like that, but he is also very emotional too’. He was able to compartmentalize his life in a very interesting way.

What was the most challenging thing about playing this character?
It was making sure the audience wouldn’t be bored by a guy who is not showing his emotion, until he finds his daughter. And there, he can unzip a little bit and show some emotion, and hopefully the audience is like ‘oh thank God, finally, he’s showing something’. That was mostly my concern. There is something about his hair too. He had this extraordinary hair. And he wore these big 70s glasses, and I wanted to wear them a lot more. Peter was a bit nervous about that, that the audience wouldn’t see my eyes. But, I disagree with him, and I wish I wore them more. But, I understand why. They were huge and slightly tinted. And even his suits, they were above and beyond what the normal FBI guys wore. They had a lot of basic suits, but Mark’s were really bespoke. He was very conscience of that, you know. And wanted to present an air of respectability and class. He was very proud of the FBI.

Do you think Mark Felt actually brought down the White House?
No. I don’t like the title at all. Mark Felt did not bring down the White House.

Do you think it could be possible though that one person, right now, could bring down the White House?
Well, let’s say, Robert Muller uncovers something. We know there is collusion in the administration with Russia, we know there is. Whether the Twitter-In-Chief was part of that or not, we’ll find out. And as a political journalist said quite recently, when he was asked, do you think Trump is guilty, he said, well there is no smoke without fire and there is a lot of smoke. So, we are all going to see. Something will be uncovered in the next year or so. But I certainly felt for James Comey when he was dismissed because he wouldn’t give his loyalty. And apparently the Twitter-In-Chief demands absolute loyalty. And that was very much the same as Richard Nixon. If you weren’t on his side, you were his enemy. Mr. Trump sees the press as the enemy, Richard Nixon did too. It is very scary.

Of all your films you’ve been in, which would you say is your favourite?
I would say Michael Collins. And Steven Spielberg made a wonderful film in Schindler’s List. I would’ve recast Schindler, but I think that was a wonderful film too.

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House open this Friday in Toronto, Vancouver  and Montreal, and throughout Canada this Fall.

By: Roderick Thedorff



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