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Liam Neeson

'Kinsey'

THESP FILE
What actor/actress would you most like to work with?
“That’s hard, because I admire so many. I love working with my friends — Aidan Quinn, Laura Linney, my wife of course (Natasha Richardson), Oliver Platt, Meryl Streep — we’re all friends, and I just adore working with them.”
What’s your favorite film from the past five years?
“Talk to Her.” “Quite an extraordinary piece of work.”
Which character have you watched and wished you could have played them?
Col. Kurtz from “Apocalypse Now.” “I’d be right for it in another 10 to 15 years. It’s also because I love Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness.’ I read it about every six months. It has such attraction and pull for me.”
What are you doing next?
“I did a picture with Ridley Scott in January called ‘Kingdom of Heaven'”

Though “Kinsey” takes place primarily during the first half of the 20th century, its star, Liam Neeson, isn’t surprised its subject matter is still divisive.

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“It’s very simple: Sex is controversial,” he says. “You look at the issues that are defining cultures and nations as we speak — from gender equality, to abortion, to gay and lesbian rights — these are all sex-related issues.”

Statements like that would no doubt spur on a lecture from Neeson’s character, Alfred C. Kinsey, the researcher who, in the ’40s and ’50s, fundamentally revised the way our society views sexuality. Of course it wasn’t just his research, but also some of the ideas and methods behind it, that made Kinsey a polarizing figure — but it was precisely this complexity that made the film intriguing to Neeson.

That, and the fact that its director and writer was Bill Condon, whose last film, “Gods and Monsters,” Neeson loved.

“It was very complex and rich, and terribly rewarding,” he says. “So when I read ‘Kinsey,’ and it had those same qualities, I thought if they’re really interested in me, I would love to take it a step further.”

Condon provided his cast with what Neeson says was a “trunkload” of background material, including a 25-minute audiotape of Kinsey speaking to an audience that “opened a door” for the film’s lead actor.

“Just to hear the man riff on his favorite subject was quite extraordinary — and at this stage he was very, very weak,” Neeson says. “To hear him gaining strength, it was remarkable. At the end of it, his voice is that of a 33-year-old man.”

Neeson, who says he bears no physical likeness to the scientist, had to emulate Kinsey’s midwestern cadence, along with his stature, which had been marred by illnesses throughout his childhood. The bigger challenge came in the budget-limited, 35-day shoot, which forced the actors to have everything down perfectly.

“It was like jumping out of a helicopter in a combat zone,” he says. “We just had to get the stuff done.”

But this intense work was well worth it for Neeson, who believes revisiting Kinsey’s life and findings couldn’t be more timely.

“The subject matter — especially in this day and age — is very relevant,” he says. “It’s necessary to remind people just who this man and their team were, and what they really did achieve.”