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Liam Neeson says shooting film with his son helped process pain of Natasha Richardson's death


Liam Neeson and son Michael in Made in Italy

Liam Neeson and son Michael in Made in Italy

Liam Neeson and son Michael in Made in Italy

Liam Neeson has told how sharing film scenes about grief and loss with his son was "cathartic".

The Ballymena actor and his 22-year-old son, Micheal Richardson, appear in the new bittersweet comedy Made in Italy, which tells the story of a man bonding with his estranged son following the death of his wife.

Neeson, whose actress wife Natasha Richardson died following a skiing accident in 2009, said the film gave he and his son a chance to say things to each other that otherwise may have gone unsaid.

He also praised the crew for allowing them to feel safe enough to open up.

The actor told the Graham Norton Show: "It was cathartic in the way art sometimes can be. There were some very delicate scenes. I could access the emotion without any problem — I didn’t need days to build up to it — and I thought Micheal would be the same.

"We had such a delicate producer and such a supportive crew that we felt wonderfully comfortable."

Neeson and Richardson joined Norton from New York to talk about the film, which is set in Tuscany and sees Neeson’s character restore a villa with his son, played by Richardson.

Asked about playing a grieving father and son, Neeson said he and Richardson could "very much relate to that".

He also admitted to feeling a "churning in his gut" when he read the script.

When asked if he and his father had discussed whether they would be comfortable playing out emotions in public, Richardson replied: "We had a conversation about it beforehand.

"I think Dad was more worried about the publicity aspect of it and me getting questions about mum and other personal things, but I was pretty cool with that.

"It was so odd that it was 10 years after mum had passed. We were actually selling a family home that she grew up in, so it hit a little harder for us."

Richardson talked about what it was like to work opposite his father, telling Norton that he had fought for the role himself, without Neeson’s help.

"I auditioned for the part for my own dignity. I didn’t just want to be handed the part because he’s my dad," he said.

Neeson said: "You auditioned? I didn’t know that."

Richardson also reflected on what it was like to grow up with famous parents.

"I watched all their movies, but it was kind of traumatising at the age of five seeing my dad sliced in half by a lightsaber, blown up in an explosion and kissing somebody else," he said.

"As a kid I thought it was CGI or some Hollywood effect."

Made in Italy, the directorial and screen-writing debut of actor James D’Arcy, has received mixed reviews.

The Guardian described it as "somewhat sappy but quite watchable" and said its unique selling point was that the plot mirrored the actors’ story. It also praised the "pretty good comic performances".

The Daily Telegraph, however, was less kind. Its review read: "While Richardson is perfectly fine and Neeson expertly finds the right tone for the project at hand — light, rather than comic — there is no observable spark, let alone a cathartic resonance between material and cast."

÷ The Graham Norton Show is on BBC One tonight at 10.45pm. Also available on the iPlayer.

Belfast Telegraph

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