Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger Talk ‘Marlowe’ as Neil Jordan’s Film World Premieres in San Sebastian

Liam Neeson and Diane Kruger turned out at the San Sebastian Film Festival on Saturday to support the world premiere of Neil Jordan’s “Marlowe,” which closes the festival tonight.

Jordan and William Monahan’s adaptation of John Banville’s novel “The Black-Eyed Blonde” centers Raymond Chandler’s famous detective Philip Marlowe, and – like Chandler’s books – is set in 1930s Los Angeles.

Jordan said it was confusing to call it a film noir. “First of all, it’s shot in color,” he said.

Even though it is set in the past, it’s a futuristic film that provided his reference point for the look of this one.

“To make a film like this, you have to reinvent the image. The reference I chose was ‘Blade Runner,’ which is set in L.A. in the future. I’m making a film set in L.A. in the past, but somehow it’s a sci-fi film. […] It was a good reference for the designers and camera team.”

The film was mostly shot in the Barcelona hills, which Neeson, who plays Marlowe, said reminded him of L.A.

“I used to live in Laurel Canyon and where we filmed in Barcelona was a replica for Laurel Canyon,” he said. 

The film began with a book that hadn’t then been published. 

“The book was written by a dear friend of mine,” said Jordan. “We bought the rights for the book, and William Monahan wrote a wonderful script, but I thought there was not enough complexity in the script, and said can I have a go. We ended up with the script we have.”

He chose his cast well.

“I was desperate to work with Jessica Lange,” he said. “The thought of Jessica Lange playing a retired screen goddess was amazing. Thankfully she agreed to play the part.”

Neeson referred to past actors that have played the part of Marlowe, when asked about preparing for the role.

“There have been some extraordinary actors like Bogart, or Elliott Gould in Robert Altman’s ‘The Long Goodbye’ was marvelous,” he said. “And of course, Robert Mitchum played him in the early ‘70s (‘Farewell My Lovely’). I’m an avid reader, but I had never read Raymond Chandler. Then I just devoured all of it on my best-friend Kindle. But I was never intimidated by it. I’ve worked with Neil four times. I knew Neil would give it a certain quirky twist and cast it superbly, which he has done. Diane and I played together in a film we shot in Berlin 12 years ago. Neil got together a wonderful cast. That was intimidating.”

For Kruger, the chance to play in the film presented a rare opportunity.

“We don’t get to play these types of characters or do these types of films often,” she said. “I jumped on a Zoom with Neil. I knew he would do something classic but with a twist. We shot in Barcelona, which was awesome.”

What attracted Jordan to this story?

“It’s not so much the genre,” he said. “It’s the entire landscape of the film. I thought if I could make a film about a Marlowe hired by a beautiful woman to find her lover, and that what he doesn’t know is that it’s to kill him, well I haven’t seen that.”

The L.A. he filmed has disappeared, even if Chandler’s legacy remains. 

He added: “We made up our period of Los Angeles. We had to invent an imaginary city because if you go to L.A. there’s nothing left of that period. They destroyed it.”

The film is produced by Alan Moloney, Gary Levinsohn, Mark Fasano, Billy Hines, Philip Kim and Patrick Hibler. It is a co-production between Parallel Films, Hills Productions and Davis Films, with support from Screen Ireland. Sur Film provided production services in Barcelona.

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