Lately, I’ve been revisiting moments I’ve covered on my blog, but left things out. Such as writing about the ice cream truck that saved the day on a 100-mile hike across England, accidentally sitting next to Presidents and Prime Ministers, and a backstory to the time I brought my daughter with me to a One Direction interview. Here’s a backstory to my interview with Liam Neeson.
I received an email asking if I wanted to review the film A Monster Calls and interview Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Liam Neeson, director J.A. Bayona, and writer Patrick Ness. Without checking my calendar, I agreed. As I usually do when I attend a screening, interview, or an event, I asked if I could bring one of my kids. My contact said I could bring one child and I decided to bring my 10-year-old daughter.
The screening took place at a small theater inside an office building. The theater was full of film critics holding notebooks and pens. The only thing in my hand was an iced coffee. I’m not a critic and wasn’t about to think like one and planned on writing a review through the eyes of someone that loves movies. I jotted down as many thoughts as I could on the subway ride home and then rewrote my thoughts afterward.
Before the interview, I asked my contact if I could ask questions about fatherhood and was shot down. She added that I was not supposed to talk about family matters at all. Liam Neeson is a single father and I had a plethora of questions to ask. I regretfully agreed my questions would stick to A Monster Calls and filming of the movie.
On the day of the interview, I arrived at a hotel and followed signs to the penthouse suite, where a bunch of critics and journalists waited. When I entered, I was told Sigourney Weaver was sick, which saddened me because I was rude to her in a bookstore once and I wanted to apologize. We were told we would break up into groups of three and every 15 minutes, a new person would switch with the interviewee. We walked into another room and I made small talk with my contact and was told again my questions had to be about the movie. The table was round and I waited for the others to sit down and then I sat on the end because I wanted to be closest to the actors and filmmakers. To my right sat a guy who worked for a big publication and to his right was a woman, who worked for a popular website, but seemed very nervous.
Liam Neeson walked in looking tired. He was still recovering from shooting the movie Silence. He sat down and took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and put his glasses back on. While looking down at the table, he spoke in a Liam Neeson growl, “Okay, shoot.” It was obvious he did not want to be there. Out of respect for the person I interview, I always ask if I can record, knowing the person is going into the interview to be recorded. That does a few things. First, the initial question is a softball. Second, it makes me look honest. Third, it’s a good way to have a conversation while passing the time. He gave a nod of approval. I thanked him and turned my phone on.
While setting up my phone, I said, “I’m not a film critic. I’m a dad blogger, so I don’t attend too many of these.” He sat forward and took off his glasses and leaned into me and said, “a dad blogger… what is that? Is that like a mom blogger, but for dads?” “Pretty much,” I answered. My contact who was sitting in the hallway next to the bathroom, stood up and looked at me. “So, what do you write about?” Neeson asked. “Oh, all aspects of fatherhood and some politics and I have a section on if certain movies are appropriate for kids.” “I see,” Liam said and kept staring at me as though he was trying to get a read on me. His body language completely changed and he was relaxed and interested. And then I asked while my contact looked on from the hallway, “As a dad… did you feel the need to protect Lewis MacDougall during his emotional scenes? He had to act through heavy moments with you. Does being a dad influence how you work?” I didn’t look at my contact, but I could feel her eyes burrowing in my skull. And then Neeson gave an amazing quote on fatherhood.
“I remember when my first son was born, somebody asking me, does it change you? I don’t think I’ve changed, but I know that I have. Every time I put on a shirt, I boil the kettle… Whatever I do is informed by the fact that I am a father. So hopefully my acting has been informed by the fact that I am a father of two boys. I don’t do anything deliberate being a dad to Lewis’s acting, for example, but something obviously worked. You know, an empathy.”
And from there, I asked questions about the movie and about fatherhood. And he asked me questions. The guy to my right jumped in and asked questions and we encouraged the third person to ask questions by giving her space, but she had a difficult time getting the questions out. After the interview was over, I stood up and shook Neeson’s hand and he told me he enjoyed our conversation. And then something clicked with us and he began talking about politics and said some personal things that would be juicy for tabloids, but I’ll never put them in an article because he felt comfortable with me and I wouldn’t want to betray that trust. And right before he walked away, I asked him about Schindler’s list and we chatted for a few moments while the PR rep kept trying to usher him away. The guy in the middle walked over and asked, “can I get a photo?” And Mr. Neeson said, “I don’t do photos” and he walked out the door.
After Liam left, I looked at my contact, raised my eyebrows and shrugged. She looked back with an expression that stated this would be my last interview. Later on, I received an email from her that said while everyone was getting ready to leave, Liam mentioned the dad blogger guy from this morning and he liked me. From that point on, I have not been cautious about asking people questions about parenting, because most people love talking about raising kids. Also, I do not ask my contacts what questions are permitted.
My kids have interviewed people as well.