In the action drama Seraphim Falls, America's Civil War has ended but that doesn't mean every man who fought in it is ready to put down his weapons and forgive his enemies. Confederate Colonel Morsman Carver (Liam Neeson) is unwilling to let the man he holds a personal vendetta against escape unpunished. Carver's out for revenge and nothing will stop him from hunting down and killing his greatest enemy, Union Captain Gideon (Pierce Brosnan).
Seraphim Falls follows Carver and Gideon as they play a deadly game of chase set against the landscape of the American West.
Interview with Pierce Brosnan
What was the appeal of starring in a Western?
Because I grew up in the genre. In Ireland, the West and the John Wayne movies - although we didnt get too many of those. You know, cowboys and Indians, its a deep-seated part of ones childhood. And then coming to England and Clint Eastwood spaghetti Westerns, the Sergio Leone-type of thing. My coming of age and having a fondness for the films, for movies, the dreaming of being up on the silver screen and all of that in my teenage years.
I thought about it for some time and I kind of put it out there, I suppose, to the agents. I thought about developing my own story about a bunch of Irish guys that show up in the West, but I was beaten to the post by David Von Ancken who sent me this script with Liam attached. The script just touched me. I thought it was very eloquently written and the challenges of the narrative are so simple; chase sequence, with the underpinnings of redemption of war, forgiveness of war, the brutality of war, the history of this particular war which tore this world apart the landscape of America, I should say. That is still going on to this day in its own disguised way. So, thats it, really.
Did David Von Ancken suggest specific Westerns to watch?
I didnt look at the Westerns; I looked at the history. I just looked at the history books of what these men went through. The religion they found, the religion they lost, the lives they lost, the futility of it all. The sheer passion for killing each other. The heroics of these young men and old men who went through years fighting battles. Men who were just schoolteachers and accountants who went off to war. Thats what carried me through it, that were still living this kind of this passion for war. The mongers of war are this government that we have now who has just taken us into this confusing state of the mind and the heart, and has left so many people angry and confused and bitter. A country that was respected, admired as a great country, is now kind of mired by this meaningless war and how do we find our compassion again? How do we find it as a nation to do good things? So I thought it was relatable to this film.
What was the biggest challenge of working on Seraphim Falls?
Laughing, Staying on the horse, but I like horses and I love riding horses. I hadnt ridden in about 10 years - maybe more than that - and the last time I had ridden I had ended up with back surgery and stuff like that because of the jump I took. So there was a certain hesitation there. The first day out on the horses with the cowboys out there, the wranglers, there was Liams stunt double and my stunt double. They said, Well, should we take them up to the gallop? We said, Lets go, and we were flat out all six of us. Thats powerful when youre out on the prairie and youre riding flat out.
We came out of this canyon and I looked over and this horse went just down. It was a stunt double. It was Liams guy. He was a big dude and hes built like a rock. He just went flying through the dust. He was okay, the horse was okay, but it put the shits out of me. I thought, Oh good Lord! Liam and I went back to the bar and said, We need a large whiskey, please. Shooting was only four days away so You know, theyre kooky animals, too. When you have to do a scene 20 times and youre half a mile away and youre up at the full gallop and theyve got long legs, you just hope that you dont go down. Nobody did.
The rest was, you know, the challenge of acting without words. It was a challenge. Youre in a life do you have an inner life? You felt and in some ways youre being hunted so that gives you the inner life. Youve done your homework. I read the history of this war and spoke to professors at UCLA. I had a dialog so I was fascinated by it, being that Im now an American citizen and part of my heritage and my childrens heritage, there was a real passion for it which carried me through each day. I just loved it. Being out in the elements and going to work in this majestic landscape: Santa Fe, New Mexico, Taos, which is a very powerful, spiritual landscape. It was just great - and getting paid for it!
How much practice did you do with the knives your character uses in the film?
Ive done a bit of that over the years. The knife is his own Holy Grail, really. He lives by the knife, lives by the bullet. Hes fighting; hes a field agent in many ways. He knows how to survive. Hes kind of his own iconic mythological proportions. He went through the Battle of Antietam and when you read about that battle, it was bloody and ferocious, a fever of war that has never been seen since. And for a man to survive that and yet lose two sons and the loss of losing a son and then losing a wife its all great food for an actor.
There wasnt quite the skill. I mean, you drop the knife, you throw the knife. You look like you know how to handle the knife. Its very simple very, very simple. But the complicated thing is how you put those pictures together and keep the rhythm of film together. In many respects its old-fashioned filmmaking. You went out there and you put the camera up on sticks. But you have someone like John Toll behind the camera, who is a real master of the landscape and figures on the landscape. So you took comfort in that. That your performance, your body language, your gestures would hopefully tell that moment of the story. And hopefully they got the right angle on your face, your eyes. Its a leap of faith, always.