The boy and the monster have quite an interesting dynamic in this heart wrenching novel adaptation.
In A Monster Calls, a boy deals with a dying mother and a talking tree. Lewis MacDougall (Pan) gives an emotive performance as that boy. Liam Neeson is larger than life as that tree. It is a remarkable fairy tale that will resonate differently with the young and the old, but will resonate strongly regardless. The Knockturnal had a chance to talk with Neeson and MacDougal in an interview roundtable at the NYC premiere of the film.
Q:So what appealed to you about playing this particular character?
Liam Neeson: It was Patrick Ness’ story I have to say. And I did see Bayona’s Impossible. And he was, you know, these kids in that film, he-he was able to bring these performances out of these children. I know Ewan McGregor well. He’s a terrific actor. Naomi Harris of course, but it was the kids really. They were so fresh and not acting, you know. And dealing with these incredible emotions of surviving a tsunami, you know.
I mean, Shakespeare’s Hamlet doesn’t go through the gamut of emotions this kid has to. And he was f**king fantastic. Really and there was no acting at all with the boy, you know. And he did take after take, you know, especially for this motion capture thing. And he was always there. Always giving it as much as he could, you know.
Q: Is there a specific scene that you guys had that was very moving and touching for you?
LN: Maybe the last scene where the Monster’s in the bedroom, you know. And, I think I said to J.A., I can’t remember if it was for me or for him, but he had already planned it. I said, wouldn’t it be great if the Mother sees me? And he says, yeah, yeah, she does, she will, you know. I said, oh okay, great.
Q: what’s the process of getting the right voice?
LN: When Bayona showed me the-the mockup of the head, I thought well this is a guy, not a guy, but this is a character that has trouble breathing and so that might inform the way I maybe take a breath or just something that gives it that he’s breathing through all the souls that are in that graveyard where that yew tree is are kind of coming up through him in some way.
Q: Here’s another movie where you save children like Taken.
LN: I know. Oh God. [laughs]
Q: So what made you fall in love with this project? What when you read the script made you wanna do it?
Lewis MacDougall: Well, the first thing I read was the book ’cause obviously it’s Patrick Ness adapting his own book into the to the screenplay. So after I did the first audition, we-went and immediately sought out the book and I it’s a beautiful story obviously. So that obviously attracted me to it. But I also like in terms of like the character Conor I really just admired the way, for example, when he first met the Monster, how he just, completely defied and was not afraid of him at all.
Q: How difficult was it to act opposite Liam, with all these technical challenges?
LMD: The thing is Liam wasn’t on set for the shooting of the film, but I’m sure he’s told you about the motion capture we did before we started shooting. It gave us the opportunity to rehearse the film multiple times and then do it and actually do the scenes of Conor and the Monster with an actual actor who’s playing the Monster. And then take that onto set where I would be, where there wouldn’t be, like an actual actor there doing the other part.
Q: In the film, uh, Conor draws. Do you draw or do you have any particular thing that you like to do?
LMD: I may hang out with my friends if I’m like I convey to my friends if I’m ever in a difficult place. And Conor, you know, doesn’t have really any friends. And that’s something that’s troubling him. He doesn’t have anybody to turn to. And anybody to confide in. And the people around him aren’t telling him the full story. So that’s something that’s really difficult for him.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the process for you, for playing this character?
LMD: I was definitely nervous about because Conor experiences like a wide variety of different emotions in the film and so definitely getting in touch with those is probably the hardest part of the whole process of making it.
Q: What’s your dream role?
LMD: I guess I don’t know, like a James Bond or something. That type of thing.
A Monster Calls will open in select cities on December 23rd, 2016and nationwide on January 6th, 2017.