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Kinsey - Liam Neeson Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q: You studied to be a physicist in your youth. Did that inspire you in taking the role of Alfred Kinsey?
A:
I went to Queens University in Belfast, and I studied Physics, Maths and Geology, so I did rub shoulders with very starred Professors and met some extraordinary characters.
There was one man, Professor Bates – one of the top professors in the world at that time, in the early 1970s – and he would come into his lectures like a little pussycat.
And just start putting equations on the board, totally in another world and obsessed with things.
Kinsey got obsessed with his research. I can see how it could come about but he was driven by… he hated ignorance in the world, especially when it came to young people and sexual ignorance.
In the 1930s, it was common to find girls who didn’t know how babies were born. In the 1940s, there was a famous survey done of high school boys; 70% didn’t realise a man was necessary for a baby to come into the world. That’s a staggering ignorance that Kinsey deplored.

Q: What sort of research did you do on Kinsey? Any archive material to look at?
A:
There is footage. Not a great deal. I knew from these diseases he had as a young boy – because he was bed-ridden for months, especially with rickets and what it can do to the curvature to your spine – so I used that the older he got to get a bit more stoop-shouldered.
But the one thing I didn’t do was… Kinsey was a more fleshy individual than I am. My original intention was to make myself look heavier but when I do that, I just look stronger. So I did the opposite and dropped quite a bit of weight for someone my height, just to look at bit more vulnerable and delicate.

Q: What do you think of him as a father and how he treats his son?
A:
Well, if the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… he was much more like his own father than he would’ve given himself credit for. I have tapes of his children, who are now in their Seventies, talking about their upbringings. They love him very much and they had a very healthy childhood. But with the son, there was a certain distance between he and his father, that he doesn’t quite want to go into.

Q: What about his marriage?
A:
His marriage was the bedrock of his life, and his wife’s too. He couldn’t have done that research without that relationship. Mac to him was like his left arm and vice versa.

Q: It’s taken a long time for the film to reach the cinemas. How come?
A:
I think there were two or three versions of different scripts going around Hollywood at certain times over the past 20 or 30 years, and no-one was quite able to crack it. Just how to treat him and that whole subject…

Q: Do you think it’s a pertinent era for a film like Kinsey to be released?
A:
We are living in a neo-conservative time. Sex is a contentious issue. We have everything from over-population to sexual abuse to gender equality to HIV/AIDS.
These are sexual issues that are shaping the world. Kinsey was one of the first to analyze sexual health on a grand scale. There’s a lot of ignorance about him, so it is timely. Gail, the producer, spent eight years trying to get the film made. Studios didn’t want to touch it because it was too contentious. But it is amazing how human sexuality defines us as a species and is yet still the least understood aspect of our existence.

Q: What does sex mean to you?
A:
What does it mean to me? I believe it defines you. I guess the older I am, because I’m a father, it is a very, very special thing. When I was a young boy, I was running around and trying to kiss girls and stuff… now it’s like here’s the issue of sex. You can have these incredible children.
I’m not saying all sex leads to kids, of course not. But it’s something I do not treat lightly. There’s something very sacred about it, still. But I’m blessed because I’m in an extraordinary marriage and blessed with these two amazing kids.

Q: Do you believe a man can be monogamous?
A:
Oh, yeah, absolutely. You have to work at it. It’s not easy. But, yeah, I think so…

Q: Did you have any problems with the scene where you had to kiss Peter Sarsgaard?
A:
I had no reservations about that. I just wanted to get it right. The scene in the film is very delicate and important, and Bill directed it with incredible sensitivity but I had no compunction about kissing a guy. I played Oscar Wilde on Broadway and had a couple of kisses in that – every night, twice on Wednesdays and Saturdays!

Q: How would you describe Peter?
A:
He’s very talented. He has a quality like Dirk Bogarde, I think. His persona can be menacing but also very sweet.

Q: You’ve also worked with co-star Laura Linney before, notably in a Broadway version of The Crucible…
A:
I do love it. She’s a great performer and a dear friend – to me and my wife. Doing The Crucible on Broadway, we just had a really fantastic and open relationship. I liken it to a dance. We never analyze it. We rarely ever talk about the scenes that we do. We just leave them alone.
I’m a big believer that if the door doesn’t creek, don’t oil it. I’d work with her in a heartbeat. She’s one of America’s great actresses. I can’t think of anybody else who could play that part.
Certainly, there’s nobody else – apart from my wife – who I have that relationship with. She’s very, very giving. I like to think I am too. Rather than taking and stealing all the time.

Q: Would you like to work with your wife, Natasha Richardson, again?
A:
Hopefully, yeah. We’d like to do something on stage again. She’s going to do Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on Broadway next year, and I’m supposed to do Eugene O’Neill’s play A Touch of the Poet next Fall. Just for a short season. But we’d love to do something together again.

Q: You were a teacher in the past, briefly. Did that help you key into Kinsey’s way of thinking?
A:
It was one of the keys that opened the little door with Kinsey… the Kinsey Institute sent me an audio tape of a lecture he gave about a year before he died, in 1955, and it’s only 30 minutes long, but you can tell on the tape that he was speaking to a huge auditorium of people – you can tell from all the coughs and stuff.
He’s introduced onto the stage and you can hear him fumbling. I knew he was very ill then, and he starts talking and his voice is very frail. But once he gets into his subject, the voice gets stronger and more dynamic. And I thought, ‘That’s what he is – a teacher. He loves disseminating knowledge.’ And it was quite remarkable. I still have the tape.

Q: Bill Condon hasn’t made that many features. Plus, you’ve also just worked with the relatively inexperienced Chris Nolan on Batman Begins. Are these guys hungrier than other directors?
A:
That’s a good description. In Bill’s case, I’d been a fan since Gods and Monsters. I was on the Deauville Jury when that came up, and I remember championing it in the jury room. I thought it was quite extraordinary. It was also made on a shoe-string in 28-30 days. I thought he was a real fresh new talent, who can write and direct. There are very few.
I’ve worked with Neil Jordan, who’s wonderful. Chris Nolan is too. But they do have a freshness that’s kind of wonderful. I’m not saying other directors are jaded but they are very talented.

Q: You’ve just worked with Neil again, on Breakfast on Pluto…
A:
Yeah, I just finished it about three weeks ago. We did Michael Collins together nine years ago, and his cinema language was just phenomenal. The pace he works at is staggering.

Q: You’re also in Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. Do you prefer blockbusters or small films like Kinsey?
A:
I’ve had good and bad experiences with big epic films. Thankfully, most have been good. Certainly, working with Ridley Scott was a fantastic experience. A great, great director. It’s going to be a very special film. I can feel it.
It’s about the Crusades – an event that happened after the Second Crusades, the battle between Islam and the Crusaders. I play Godfrey of Ibelin, who was a Crusader and a warrior. Orlando plays my son.

Q: You were going to do Alexander, weren’t you? Was it the time spent away from your family that put you off?
A:
It was a big decision because it’s an extraordinary chance to work with Oliver Stone but it did mean being in a desert for weeks and I knew I’d be doing Ridley’s film – where the time commitment for me was just five weeks.

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