Liam Neeson has told how reading a movie script about shared grief between a father and his son recalled the painful loss of his own wife, actress Natasha Richardson.
The Ballymena actor stars in the film Made in Italy alongside his real-life son Micheal Richardson, who has followed both his parents into acting.
The film, written and directed by British actor James D’Arcy, is set in Tuscany and tells the story of an artist, played by Neeson, who must restore a villa with his estranged son (Richardson) after his wife dies in a car crash.
Neeson, whose wife lost her life in a skiing accident in 2009, said that when he first read the script it felt like a ‘good, solid punch to the gut’, while his son admitted he was torn about taking the role.
The pair were speaking on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review on Radio 5 Live, discussing their reasons for agreeing to come onboard and what the Tuscan filming experience was like.
Neeson told how his English agent sent him the script for the father/son bonding flick, but warned him in advance that it might be too ‘near the knuckle’, without explaining why.
“She sent it to me, I read it and it read like a good, solid punch to the gut. That’s how I can best describe it,” he said.
“I thought ‘there are two things I could do. Let’s forget it. It’s too near the knuckle, way too near the knuckle’. Or maybe I could do it and it would be cool to do it with my son.”
When asked to elaborate, Neeson replied: “It’s to do with death; to do with the death of my (the character) wife and Micheal’s mother under accidental circumstances and how my character reacts to that death in the film.
“It’s not how I reacted in real life, but in the film my character takes on a different journey in helping his son cope with it and how he helps him is the worst possible thing he could’ve done, with giving away spoilers.”
Richardson (26), who previously starred with his dad in the movie Cold Pursuit, said he felt ‘weird’ when he read the script.
It was shown to him by Neeson, when he flew to London from New York to visit his dad on the set of Men In Black: International.
Richardson then spent several hours with James D’Arcy discussing the film and later told the Taken star he thought his son would be perfect for the part.
“I read the script and the parallels were almost creepy because of how on the nose they were,” said Richardson.
“With that, I felt there was a great deal of importance and equally, being able to star in a film with dad, after not working that much, was a no-brainer. It was exciting and daunting, but mostly exciting.”
Neeson also talked about the film shoot in Tuscany and how he understood why so many artists had been captivated by its beauty.
“We were there for six weeks,” he said. “The first five weeks it rained and there was fog. We could’ve been shooting it in East Acton and you would never have known.
“Then in the last week, the sun came out; the magical Tuscan sun came out, and we got those sunrises and sunsets.
“I’ve been describing it as a religious experience; how the air changed, how the view changed and you could see hillsides, the wine crops, the beautiful little villages hanging onto the side of a hill.
“You could understand why these Renaissance artists fell in love with the place and had to paint aspects of it.”
He praised D’Arcy for a beautiful script and good direction and said lockdown was the perfect time to watch the family movie.