Exclusive: Liam Neeson Is Raccoon-Aware, Just Right for ‘The Nut Job’
Liam Neeson doing voiceover for 'Nut Job' (Open Roads Films)
And he never forgot it.
The one-time Oscar nominee, known lately for his successful "Taken" franchise, has been letting loose behind the mike (and the camera), voicing animated features, including, "The Nut Job" and "The Lego Movie."
Neeson plays the ever-mischievous Raccoon in "The Nut Job," telling Yahoo Movies in an exclusive interview that he finds the dumpster diving critters — some of whom can be found near his New York home — simply fascinating.
Read on for the Irish actor's raccoon tales, meeting and working with Comedy Central's Key and Peele (famous for their "Liam Neesons" sketch), and how he once survived a serious motorbike crash with another wild creature — a deer. And, oh yeah, we might soon see him in more comedies opposite the likes of Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen. (Awesome.)
[Related: Will Arnett Gets Squirrelly In 'The Nut Job']
What is your general relationship with raccoons? People seem to have strong opinions about them.
Liam Neeson: They're not an indigenous species to Ireland. I remember doing an episode of "Miami Vice" years and years ago in the '80s and I saw a raccoon going through trash. And seeing this thing use his little paws and actually lifting a lid of a garbage can, peering in — it saw me and it was quite sinister because it almost had a human quality to it, quite sneaky. I just had never seen a raccoon in my life before and the impression stayed with me.
If you don't mind me asking, how old were you when you first saw one then?
L.N.: Oh God how old was I when I did "Miami Vice"? Maybe 1987? I'm 61 now, so I was in my 30s.
Did you need to incorporate any of that into your "Nut Job" performance?
L.N.: No. I remember when they showed me, I was shooting a film here in New York and they showed me artwork for Raccoon and it all came back to me. There was something very powerful about them. I have a property upstate and now I'm used to raccoons, in fact, I trap them and take them away to the countryside and release them. They're very interesting animals.
[Photos: 'The Nut Job' Movie Pics]
Director Peter Lepeniotis says you help "define villainy" in the film. Would you agree or disagree?
L.N.: [Laughs] Well the Raccoon, he has a job to do, you know? Some people say he's evil, he's bad, other people say, "No, he did the right thing." But it was certainly fun doing it.
Getting in the booth for this one, were there different body positions involved? What did you need to tap into?
L.N.: That can help. ... You do find yourself animating yourself and moving your body in certain ways, depending on what the scene is of course. It's an interesting process because you're lending voice to some complete stranger's drawing. ... Last year I did, like, four animated features and they really were a learning curve in a lot of ways.
Are there different types of acting skills you tap into for voice acting?
L.N.: Well that's a good question. I wish I could intellectualize it and say, "Okay, I do these one, two, three and four things." In my early professional life in Belfast I did quite a number of educational programs on BBC radio. I did some radio plays when I moved to London and became very very aware of the power of the microphone. I love when I go back to London and listening to Radio Four and the BBC World Service and stuff. ... It was always a part of my life growing up, listening to boxing on the radio and just using your imagination that way.