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The A-Team - Liam Neeson interview

Liam Neeson in The A-Team

Interview by Rob Carnevale

LIAM Neeson talks about stepping into the iconic shoes of George Peppard as Hannibal Smith in the big screen revival of classic ‘80s TV show The A-Team, and getting an embarrassing injury on his first day.

He also talks about taking his mother-in-law to see the film and what he thinks about the decision to cut the UK Film Council…

Q. What part of the original character did you lean on and what part did you steer clear of?
Liam Neeson: Well, we all sort of paid homage to the actors and characters in the TV show but after that we made Joe’s movie. We couldn’t be burdened by thinking we must recreate George Peppard, that would be silly, wasteful and stupid in the 21st century. So, we made Joe’s movie. All of us acknowledged or tipped our hat to various iconic elements of the characters – Rampage with the Mohawk and where that comes from, and myself with my salt and pepper wig and cigars.

Q. I gather you also got to improvise a lot?
Liam Neeson: We did… every day, every scene we worked on was always alive. We would use the script as a guide but Joe would always encourage us to try something.

Q. One of the big things with The A-Team is the camaraderie that has to exist between the members. So, how easy did that come to you?
Liam Neeson: It’s a no brainer. That’s the thing I’m most proud of in the whole film. Our chemistry is there, it’s very palpable and it was a joy to go to work every day, it really was. There were no egos… they were all left at the door. There was no room for that stuff anyway. But it is the thing I’m most proudest of.

Q. Did you sustain any injuries given the physicality of the role?
Liam Neeson: First week I tore by rotator cuff getting out of the van [laughs]. It was deeply embarrassing. So, we hurt ourselves.

Q. There’s nothing quite as dedicated as a reformed smoker, so what was it like having to endure those enormous cigars?
Liam Neeson: I tell you, it was tough. Bradley’s an ex-smoker too. I am a nicotine addict. I’ve been off cigarettes for 16 years. But Joe [Carnahan] insisted that I smoke those cigars, which was absolutely right [for the role]. And because there were no trade embargoes with Cuba, because we shot in Canada, we had Cuban cigars. So, after day one I got what cigars were about. [Before then] I’d got the prop guys to make me rubber ones. I had this idea that someone would occasionally come up and try and light this thing, and I’d say: “No, no, no, I’m trying to stop smoking.” [I thought] it was a reasonable idea, but he [Joe] didn’t like it. So, it was dangerous for a couple of days.

Q. Have your boys seen the film and what do they think of you as Hannibal Smith? Does it give you some street cred?
Liam Neeson: There was a wee bit. I went to see the film with my boys and my mother-in-law, who is Vanessa Redgrave. Three quarters of the way through, I asked her if she was following it and she said: “I’m a little bit confused but I love every second of it.” So, I called Joe, and he was like: “Oh my God, you brought Vanessa Redgrave to see The A-Team!” But we all loved it and I have a little bit of cred with my boys, yes [smiles].

Q. What do you think about the cut to the UK Film Council?
Liam Neeson: I just heard about it last night. I know we all have to tighten our belts and stuff but I think it’s quite appalling. I just gave a knee jerk reaction last night. But to save $17 dollars? It’s pretty shocking. It makes me worried about this government if they’re going to do that. Hopefully, we’ll start a campaign or something.

Read our review of The A-Team

Read our interview with Bradley Cooper and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson