Liam Neeson and Unknown cast chats

Feb 16, 2011 at 3:30 p.m. ET

In the new film Unknown, Liam Neeson takes his new action star status to the next level. Neeson portrays a man on the run who seems to have lost his identity. SheKnows got to sit with the cast from the film including Neeson, January Jones, Diane Kruger and director Jaume Collet-Serra.

Liam Neeson is an action star. We might not have said that a few years back, but after his turn in the incredibly successful Taken, there is no denying it. Neeson returns to the genre in his new film Unknown. We got some info on the film from the cast and director Jaume Collet-Serra.

January Jones and Liam Neeson

January Jones of Mad Men fame (and our new Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class) plays Neeson's wife and talked about the possibility of leaving TV. Diane Kruger, who plays a mysterious taxi driver in Unknown, gave us her feelings about being in a stunt-heavy film. And Neeson gives us his secret to keeping in shape. Believe me, you won't mind this form of exercise.

An Unknown chat

SheKnows: How would you describe the film?

Liam Neeson: In a nutshell, I think it's an edge-of-your-seat thriller, with kind of an homage thrown toward Alfred Hitchcock and movies of that ilk -- the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

SheKnows: January, could you talk a little bit about the appeal of this role, and with this and X-Men: First Class, if you're looking more toward movies, and if you'll leave TV ever?

January Jones: What I liked about this role was that it was something I hadn't done before and it was interesting and kind of indefinable in the way that you don't know who she is until, well if ever. I think that the audience gets to kind of decide whether she's a good guy or a bad guy. And it just kind of had, like Liam said, a touch of noir, was kind of an homage to the old Hitchcock films and it was just fun for me. And I don't know, the question about leaving TV, Mad Men is my first kind of stint in TV, and it doesn't really feel like TV to me. So I don't know if I'll -- it depends on the project, whatever keeps me interested and challenged, I guess.

SheKnows: For the actors, can you talk a little bit about the physical challenges of the film and how much of the stunt work that you got to do, and then also the benefits of filming on location in Berlin?

Liam Neeson in Unknown

Liam Neeson: Well, for a start, it was the coldest January and February in 20 years. And treacherously cold, too, frost on the ground and ice and stuff like that. And as you saw the film, there was a lot of physical activity outside. There was a challenge in that, just to execute the film in those sorts of conditions. But somehow it actually made us all closer. Diane?

Diane Kruger: Yeah, I think being in Berlin and shooting Berlin, for Berlin was really nice as well. So often, you get to shoot in a city for a different city and you try to pretend you're somewhere else, and you're not dressed for the weather. I remember making a movie in Montreal and it was supposed to be Chicago and freezing to death, basically. So it was nice to be there. We got to shoot in some really amazing locations in Berlin. And it was a very fast-paced movie, you know. It was two, three different locations sometimes a day, and that was interesting, and added, I think, to the energy of the movie.

SheKnows: How was the physical challenge for you?

Diane Kruger: For me it was pretty tough, running around in the cold and ice is not that easy sometimes. But I enjoyed it. I wanted to play a character for once that was very physical, and she is. I liked that she had her own story going on and that she's actually saving Liam's life. And those stunts, and the huge tank...were very challenging, but really interesting, you know, diving out of the huge car wreck that led into the tank, it was really fun to do.

SheKnows: It seems like, Jaume, there would have to be a lot of one takes. You would either get it or you'd just have to cut it from the script.

Jaume Collet-Serra: With these actors, it's easy to do one take, you know. But yes, we had to move very fast, and with the freezing cold, you don't want to be there for too long anyway.

Jaume Collet-Sera films Liam Neeson in Unknown

SheKnows: Jaume, I want to ask you about assembling this fine cast and can you talk a little bit about getting them together and what was it about Liam that made him your hero for this?

Jaume Collet-Serra: Obviously it's an amazing cast, and I'm so blessed to have these great, great actors working on my movie. It makes the job of the director very easy. Liam is obviously, I've been a fan of Liam for a long time, probably since I was born because he was already making movies. I think he has both the physical intensity and the emotional intensity and makes everything really compelling. And that was one thing that was really important for this movie -- that you really get to feel what the character's going through, and I think that Liam did a fantastic job. January, we were looking for that Hitchcock beauty, and that sort of layered performance. And obviously January did a fantastic job as well. With Diane we wanted somebody who was very intense as well and had a lot of depth in character. And like she said, her character has a very interesting story and is more of an edgy character. I think that she was very interesting. And it was a pleasure working with all of them.

Liam Neeson: Very easy on the eyes, first thing in the morning. If I may be so bold as to say.

Liam Neeson needs variety

SheKnows: Liam, when I look at the list of films you've made, there's just such a variety to it. Could you talk a little bit about the process of picking a script and sort of, especially with this one, was there a point where you knew you wanted to do this character?

Diane Kruger and Liam Neeson in Unknown

Liam Neeson: Oh, I'm driven by script, all the time. Or drama, as based on the spoken word. It's writing, writing, writing, all the time, you know? That's my criteria. And I guess you'd have to ask Joel [Silver, producer] and Jaume -- I think I seem to have got a new lease on life since this Taken movie was successful. At the age of 58 -- I'm sorry, did I say 58? -- age of 37, it's great to get a kind of an action hero [laughs].

SheKnows: I wanted to ask January about the idea of type casting. January was such a horrible mother on Mad Men, like an ice queen -- do you think for your movies you'd like to do something warm and sweet, which is what you initially appear to be in this movie? Is that intentional?

January Jones: What's fun about that? Being sweet? Am I type cast as being horrible? I mean, maybe. It's kind of great, isn't it? I try to always do something different. I don't think this character has anything to do with anything I've ever done, and it just keeps me interested in the job to do all kinds of different things. And I think that the quote, unquote sweet, as you said, can be kind of boring, so, I will try to stay away from that for everyone's sake.

January Jones in Unknown

SheKnows: And for Liam, you mentioned the great thing about having this reboot as an action hero at 37 or 58. Do you see having parallel careers here, one doing that kind of movie and the other doing sort of character work in films?

Liam Neeson: Yeah, I guess so. I always like to think of something Burt Lancaster said years ago. He said he acts with his hair. When he's doing a studio movie, he has a wig, and when he's doing an art house movie, he shows his bald patch.

Inside Unknown

SheKnows: Obviously your characters are in very extreme circumstances, and you're also dealing with a lot of technical filming. I was hoping you would speak to what you were able to pull from your real lives to ground these characters in reality while dealing with all of those elements.

Diane Kruger: Well, when it came to my character, you know I'm from Europe and the Bosnia-Yugoslavian war is still very much something that's on my mind for sure, but especially in Europe, I think it's something that a lot of people still talk about and remember. So I was very familiar with many -- not the same stories, but very similar stories that you've heard over the years. And actually in being born in Germany myself, we have a lot of immigrants from those countries. I thought it was interesting, what made this movie really interesting to me, apart from the fact that it's fun and there's action, and you know it's a thriller and intriguing story, it's very rare to actually get a female character that actually has her own back story and has her own interest of why she would help the male protagonist. And I thought that was interesting and gave it a bit of depth, and certainly for me as an actress, I thought it was something to bring to the story without weighing it down. That tied it all together and made it, you know, it had a great balance here.

SheKnows: Liam, the last couple of years, you've become an action actor. Do you like it?

Diane Kruger and Liam Neeson in Unknown

Liam Neeson: Yes.

SheKnows: I'd like to ask, how much did you do your own action scenes in this film and how did you maintain the training, because as you said your real age, but you don't seem that age?

Liam Neeson: I don't do my own stunts, I do my own fighting -- which I don't regard as a stunt. But it's my dear friend and stunt double [who] does all my heavy duty stuff and has been doing so for a good twelve years now. And the second part was?

SheKnows: How did you maintain?

Liam Neeson: Well the usual thing. I keep fit, as much as I can.

SheKnows: Running or…?

Liam Neeson: Just my own private stuff, you know. Lots of sex. That'll open it up [laughs].