Olivier Megaton returns to the director’s chair for Taken 3, which is out in cinemas now. Liam Neeson is back as Bryan Mills, who this time around gets framed for a murder and has to clear his name whilst being on the run from both criminals and the law.
Megaton has worked on numerous big-budget blockbusters over the years including Taken 2, The Transporter 3 and Colombiana.
EF’s Jason sat down with Olivier to discuss his brand new movie Taken 3 and ask about why he returned to the franchise, his most demanding scenes to film and the violence of the first movie compared with the style of Taken 2 and 3.
How does it feel to revisit these characters again?
Funnily, I didn’t really want to come back for the trilogy because I thought after the first and second movie, where do we go from here. I was in New York and we spoke about the film – this new story is really interesting. Then I met Luc (Besson) and he said would you be interested because it’s a very different movie, it’s not a Taken movie. So I tried to think about all of these for a few weeks and afterwards I read the script and saw that it was something totally different. So I thought ‘why not!?’
Also it’s about working with my whole team again, with Luc… they are like my family, so it’s something I like a lot. I’d just been doing a TV show in New York with just 2 people and it was a nightmare, so I think that experience pushed me to do something with my crew again. So after the TV show nightmare, I thought, ‘yes, let’s do it again, let’s work together’.
From a director’s point of view, what was the most demanding scene to shoot?
I think that in terms of action, the freeway scene was the most difficult to shoot, mainly because we didn’t have much time to shoot it – just 2 weekends for the freeway. An action scene like this is full of little details so you need to have everything in place. But as usual, my team were the best all of the time. So I was 100% sure that we were going to make it, I didn’t fear for anything.
For emotion, the morgue scene was interesting because we shot it in a real morgue. It was very weird – when I was preparing the scene (and we had officially arranged to be there), it was meant to be clear. We got to the morgue and at the last minute they got a call and had to bring in a corpse that morning so we arrived in the room to find people working in there! But afterwards, it was very hard to shoot in this room, very emotional. After we finished, everyone wanted to get out of there very quickly!
It sounds like a very intense environment to shoot in…
Yes, very much!
Taken was a huge global success and a large part of that success can be attributed to its 18-rated violence. Taken 2 and 3 has a different approach, appealing to a wider audience with a lower certification. I was wondering where you stand on this – do you think there is a demand for 18 rated violence?
Taken 3 is PG-13 so we are just on the limit of the edge. The thing is, there are so many TV shows today that people are watching that are much more violent than this movie. But I think theatres are far behind. When you begin shooting a movie like this… it has to be PG-13. But in the US they don’t want blood, nudity etc. But they would like that in the unrated cut. So you kind of have to have both.
This can look violent because of the form of the film, the sharp cuts and the aesthetic of the movie, but certainly TV like Ray Donovan and Breaking Bad is far more violent. So I am aware that there is a big gap between what’s now acceptable on TV and Film.
What makes your partnership with Liam Neeson work so well?
This is a ‘family’ movie – about Bryan Mills and his family. This is very unique. Liam brought something very simple but effective to the table – a European, Irish style of loyalty – accessible for everybody. Everybody loves him because he is an icon… they feel like Liam could be close to them too. He’s different to the usual Hollywood idea of a leading man – young, full of muscles etc. There are two different ways of making a franchise. The Bonds and Bourne’s with the leading hero and ones where, as an audience, you identify with the lead… someone who is very close to you – looking like your Father or Uncle. This is what Liam brings to Taken. He’s a huge, huge actor – an academy award nominee.
The end of Taken 3 suggests that there is still more to the story of Bryan Mills – could there be another sequel and would you like to be involved?
Not really… but I did say that at the end of Taken 2 as well! The key is that you have to bring something to the franchise that it hasn’t had before. For this movie we put everything on the table and said, ‘ok we’ve changed the structure of the film, we’ve added many more openings, so what possibly comes after this?’ Then it becomes something of a TV show! (laughs).
You’ve worked with Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen in the past, what’s your collaboration process like with them?
I’ve known Luc for around 25 years now, Mark around 15 years. When they produce a script I know it’s a basis to work hard. But it’s not only a script, it’s also a movie. My job is to make this movie my own. They both know, even going back to projects like Transporter 3, that if I have notes, it’s not because I want to put my ego on the table. They understand this so it’s very practical. This is a cool thing.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
After Taken 3, I wanted to do nothing as I’ve worked on a lot of movies in the past 5 years. I wanted to have a break for a year but a lot of projects arrived – a lot of big things. When you are shooting a movie, it’s like being in a submarine and you don’t know what’s happening outside.
A year ago, just before Taken 3, I was thinking about a French movie, a very small one, about French doctors who travel around the world saving people. There’s lots of drama in this story. I haven’t shot a French movie for many years so for me it would be something very appealing. It’s a small shoot, like shooting a TV show, and I’d like to do something small before returning to something big. It’s funny because I love TV, but shooting a TV show is very hard for me because there are too many compromises etc. So I prefer to do a small movie before going back. I can’t wait for 6 months doing nothing; I’ll feel like a lion in a cage! So we are working on the script now and hopefully this will start soon.
Taken 3 is in cinemas across the country now.