Based on Lawrence Block’s bestselling series of mystery novels, ‘A Walk among the Tombstones’ stars Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder, an ex-N.Y.P.D. cop who now works as an unlicensed private investigator operating just outside the law. When Scudder reluctantly agrees to help a heroin trafficker (Dan Stevens) hunt down the men who kidnapped and then brutally murdered his wife, the PI learns that this is not the first time these men have committed this sort of twisted crime…nor will it be the last. Blurring the lines between right and wrong, Scudder races to track the deviants through the backstreets of New York City before they kill again. Written and directed by Scott Frank, ‘A Walk Among the Tombstones’ hits cinemas on September 18th. Boyd Holbrook, David Harbour, Mark Consuelos and Astro co-star.
I really enjoyed how ‘A Walk among the Tombstone’ explores Matt Scudder’s broken past and current recovery as a gateway for some thoughtful thematic material….
Liam Neeson: I loved that. That was something that really attracted me to this film and this story. It was great to get the chance to do this, which was very much one of those sorts of characters that’s not good in the relationship role and tortured. In Matt Scudder’s case, of course, he’s a recovering alcoholic. Those guys wake up in the morning, and they have to think of a reason to get up, and then, once they’re up, to not have a drink. It’s like all these little heroic battles they have that they fight with and against every day of their lives. Scott brought that out very beautifully in the film. Scudder is not larger than life. He’s just one of us really. But his career was in the police force. These guys see a side of humanity that we just don’t want to know about on a daily basis, and his training and his ethics kick in in the movie. He’s like someone doing a crossword, and there’s some clues that keep niggling at him. He’s just determined to finish it, you know? To get behind it. And he’s intrigued, like these really good detectives and cops are – they’re very very intrigued with joining up the dots.
Your character in the film, an ex-N.Y.P.D. cop who now works as an unlicensed private investigator operating just outside the law, is a tough and troubled man. You seem to be drawn to these somewhat broken, solitary characters?
Liam Neeson: I always gravitated to that type of cinema hero as an adolescent growing up in Ireland. Robert Mitchum springs to mind. Later on, it was Steve McQueen to a certain extent, and also Charles Bronson. They’re these types of grizzled characters who had one foot on the side of law and order and the other foot in the bad guy’s camp. Treading that very delicate line, that’s interesting to me and it’s great to get a chance to do that. There’s something very noble and damaged about those sorts of American cinematic icons. I find them very appealing.
If the character leaps out of the page at me, I more often than not do it. I am attracted to characters who are loners, who operate by themselves. I remember as a child going to the cinema on Saturday’s and I was attracted to those loner cowboys. They were incredibly mysterious to me. I thought they were the real bread of the earth, you know? And this guy Scudder is similar to that, in that he’s very much a loner, he’s very much a broken man in many ways, and yet there’s moral fiber and a dignity that he has got from his years in the police service with the N.Y.P.D., and also from AA. He’s a supreme professional and kind of damaged goods. There’s the stress of the job, a broken marriage… but his passion is still police work, that’s what keeps him alive. He can’t stop not doing it, even though he’s retired, you know? And he’s operating in a very grimy, the way the book describes it, a very grimy, wet, bleak side of New York that we don’t often see.
And while you seem attracted to characters that are loners, would you consider yourself a loner in real life?
Liam Neeson: No. I don’t think so at least (laughs). No man is an island, as they say. I’ve tried it, in that I’ve gone on retreats at various times in my life for three or four or five days. I was desperate to get out of there and talk to somebody. But I fly fish a lot, and I can only do that really by myself. I find I’m never lonesome when I’m on a river, far from it, but it’s a lonely practice.
Besides speaking with Scott Frank and reading the book and script, what other research did you do to get under the skin of this man you play?
Liam Neeson: I wanted to find some kind of a research I could do other than reading the novel. I know some policemen in the N.Y.P.D., one of whom I know very, very well. I was able to get access to documentaries on serial killers – not just the crimes they committed, but the police work that went into tracking them down, which was extremely fascinating. This tiny little minutia of evidence they would find and put together with this. Do they connect? Oh my God, it does connect. That was fascinating, incredibly fascinating. I thought Scudder has done that and has done it on a continual basis. And maybe, unbeknownst to himself, it brings out the good in him, because I think he is a good, righteous, old-fashioned kind of man. He has certain pillars of ethics of behavior that would never change. Even though he’s fucked up in lots of ways, he’s essentially a good man.