Brosnan, Liam Neeson and Director David Von
Ancken of Seraphim Falls
January 23, 2007
Written by Wendy R. Williams
This month I attended one film roundtable, for
David Von Ancken’s Seraphim Falls.
Falls features two multi-talented stars:
Pierce Brosnan and Liam Neeson. Pierce Brosnan has
been one of my favorite actors from his Remington
Steele days through his dashing save-the-world-get-the-girl
days as James Bond to his hysterical turns in The
Tailor of Panama (dancing with Geoffrey Rush
in the gay nightclub) and The Matador (who
can forget the scene where he walked across the
hotel lobby wearing a black bathing suit, black
socks and black tie-up shoes). Liam Neeson first
caught my eye in the The Good Mother (with
Diane Keaton), then on to his incomparable Oskar
Schindler in Schindler’s List and
then his save-the-galaxy turn as Qui-Gon Jinn in
Star Wars. And the films I mentioned are simply
tip-of-the iceberg for both actors.
Here is my review of Seraphim Falls (be
sure to scroll down for the round table interviews).
David Von Ancken’s
Opens Friday, January 26, 2007
Starring: Liam Neeson;
Pierce Brosnan; Anjelica Huston; Angie Harmon.
Reviewed by Wendy
David Von Ancken’s
Seraphim Falls is a chase movie with three
stars: Liam Neeson; Pierce Brosnan; and the gorgeous
State of New Mexico. The film is set in the period
after the United States Civil War, a war that pitted
brother against brother and tore our nation apart.
Seraphim Falls is definitely a western-without-white-hats;
it is dark in the tradition of Clint Eastwood’s
The Unforgiven, Nick Cave’s The
Proposition and even Sidney Pollack’s
In the opening sequence
we see Pierce Brosnan’s character Gideon being
shot by a gang/posse and escaping by going over
a waterfall. Then in the movie’s first twenty
minutes, there is no dialogue from Gideon; but Brosnan’s
character Gideon thoroughly holds the audience’s
attention as he tends to his wound and manages to
avert capture by his nemesis, Carver (played by
Liam Neeson) and his posse.
The film then follows
Carver and Gideon as Carver chases Gideon through
the freezing cold of the mountains down to the heat
of the salt flats. Neeson’s Carver is a man
filled with hatred, a man who has lost his humanity
and is left with only a Captain-Ahab-like obsession
to kill Gideon. The film is at its best during these
chase scenes; the survival elements of the story
are very compelling.
Both Brosnan and
Neeson give incredible performances; they are two
actors who would be spell-binding reading the Manhattan
phone book. And yes they are both Irish and this
is a Western. But in the 1860’s, both the
north and the south of the United States were filled
with Irish immigrants. And one of the intriguing
elements of this movie is that it is easy to see
that these two men were actually more alike than
not, but the circumstances of the war had made them
into bitter enemies and in the case of Neeson’s
Carver, destroyed his soul.
In the press notes,
Von Ancken states that he started writing the script
(with co-writer Abby Everett Jaques) with the desire
to write a chase movie and then he settled on the
time, place and plot. If the film has any fault,
it is the deus-ex-machina they used to move their
story along. Angie Harmon (of Law and Order
fame) plays a frontier woman who can’t
figure out how to break through a glass window.
And Gideon and Carver stumble upon just about every
group of people who could possibly have been in
New Mexico at that time in history: gangs of thieves;
railroad crews; religious groups who are anti-Mormon.
And there are some surreal characters in the story
(including the amazing Ms. Angelica Huston) who
seem to have wandered in from the Western next door.
But plot devices aside, this film is gorgeous (kudos
to cinematographer John Toll), the chase scenes
are compelling and the actors are magnificent. Von
Ancken has done a fine job directing his first movie.
There is a strong
anti-war message in the film. Here are two men who
could have been friends if they had met at a different
time of life who have been turned into mortal enemies
by the horrors of the civil war. They are Irish
but they could just as easily been Sunni and Shiite.
The Interview with Director
David Von Ancken
Question about why he chose to
tell a story that is set in the wilderness:
David Von Ancken: I wanted to tell a chase story
from Olympus [the mountains] down to hell [the salt
flats]. And I wanted as little noise as possible.
We drove over 7,000 miles looking for our locations.
I grew up in upstate New York and I was in the woods
all the time.
Question about how the film reminds
the view of other movies:
David Von Ancken: Annie? I was inspired by quiet
movies like Sidney Pollock’s Jeremiah Johnson,
Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter and the
films of Sergio Leone.
Question about the themes of the
David Von Ancken: I wanted to tell a story of revenge
and redemption and push two strong will together.
Pierce does not say a word for the first thirty
minutes of the film.
But it was hard to get [green light], people would
rather finance a horror movie than a western.
Question about the logistics of
having two Irish actors in the wilderness:
David Von Ancken: Both of those actors can ride
like the wind; they are both excellent horsemen.
It was a hard shoot, we had one day of cover out
of forty –six days. We had highs in the upper
eighties and low of thirty below zero Fahrenheit.
We started out to do a chase film and we did it
all on camera.
[Regarding the horses] We had wonderfully trained
horses who could fall down on command and they could
also hobble. The ASPCA was with us all the time
and the horses were very well treated. Pierce Brosnan
had a scene where the horse had to stay down and
the horse kept getting up every twenty seconds.
He did something with his eyes and the horse stayed
Pierce has made his living with dialogue and in
this film he was deprived of dialogue.
[About the actors having Irish accents] At that
time in history, 75% of Americans were immigrants.
with Pierce Brosnan
Question about whether he is a
Pierce Brosnan: I’m Irish.
Question about the scene where
he seem to be hiding inside a dead horse:
Pierce Brosnan: I was slimed like Ghost Busters.
It was a fake horse; we spent half the budget on
it and it looked terrible [fake], but with camera
angles, it looked pretty good. They dug a hole under
it and I stood in it. It was Pythonesque [Monty
Question about the film in general:
Pierce Brosnan: I read up a lot on the Civil War
and thought a lot of about the spiritual aspects
of the character.
Someone asked who my leading lady was and I said,
Question about what made him decide
to do this movie:
Pierce Brosnan: I was brought up on Westerns and
this one had elegance to it. You get to where you
just trust your instincts.
If you want to be a good actor, you have to inhabit
a character. There was the terror of being hunted
and in some of the scenes like the one where I was
freezing, it was NRA (no acting required) [he was
Question about how he kept from
Pierce Brosnan: Good Irish whiskey.
Question about working with Liam
Pierce Brosnan: Liam is a huge reason why I wanted
to do this film.
Question about what he is doing
Pierce Brosnan: I am working on Thomas Crown
II. We have to get the script but we have said
yes and we have set sail
with Liam Neeson
Question about why he wanted to
do this film:
Liam Neeson: Like Pierce, I grew up watching westerns.
Question about being an Irish
actor in a Civil War movie:
Liam Neeson: Like Pierce, I grew up watching westerns.
Our ancestors came to American in the 19th century,
they shot buffalo and they died in the Civil War.
Question about the revenge and
forgiveness themes in the film:
Liam Neeson: My character was very much a drive
Captain Ahab. I have ruminated a lot on revenge.
I knew people [in Ireland] who were trying to right
a wrong from four hundred years ago. I want to live
for my country; I did not want to shoot another
Irish man. We are living in very bad vengeful times.
Evil and revenge eat at your very soul.
The act of forgiveness in this film reminded me
of a documentary I saw about Vietnam vets who went
back to Vietnam and met their former enemies, looked
into their and shook hands – as old men, grandfathers..
Questions about the shooting conditions:
Liam Neeson: We were always fighting light At 4:15
like clock work, the light went out [the sun set].
But David kept the momentum going, we kept moving
I felt a spiritual connection to the land. We were
filming on private ranches and we would find pottery
shards from the Indians of centuries ago. There
was holiness, sacredness about it.
I loved Spider, my horse; he made me look good.
Question about the anti-war these
in the film;
Liam Neeson: To be in an army, you have to be dehumanized.
That is why they wear uniforms and march in parades
to become this inhuman thing or machine
Question about what he is going
to do next:
Liam Neeson: I have been asked to do Oleanna
[DavidMamet]. Both my wife and I feel like we need
to pay our theater dues. I am also working on Steven
Many thanks to Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson and
Director David Von Ancken for talking to www.newyorkcool.com