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Q&A – The Chronicles of Narnia’s Liam Neeson Is a Secret Fan of Laurel and Hardy

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sounds like Liam Neeson. For a third time, the Oscar-nominated actor lends his commanding, velvety voice to Aslan, the benevolent and bushy ruler of The Chronicles of Narnia. We sat down with Neeson in London the day after the world premiere of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and discussed his favorite pictures growing up, his love for certain comedies, and why he’s mildly frustrated by the voice-over process.

Q: Narnia has become a big hit with teen audiences. What movies did you look forward to as a teenager?

A: Now that’s an interesting question. I’m 58 years of age, so I started going to see movies, I guess, when I was about 4. That would have been the Three Stooges. Or definitely Laurel and Hardy. Those two, especially, I always wanted to see. I still want to watch them. I just love their repartee. I saw a documentary on them several years ago. It was beautiful, but it was also very sad because Oliver Hardy had developed cancer. Stan came to see him, saw how he’d lost so much weight, and said, “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”

Q: That’s heartbreaking.

A: Right? Do you know in how many movies they said that to each
other? Maybe twenty. But you asked. I’m sorry; I don’t mean to go down that
road and sound so depressing. But I adored Laurel and Hardy, and I
still do to this day. I get my kids to watch it, and I say, “This is
real comedy.” And they appreciate it. A few years ago, they didn’t.
They’d go, “Dad, this is in black-and-white!” But now they get it.

Q: As for Narnia, you and your Dawn Treader director, Michael Apted, have a history, having collaborated on Nell.

A: That’s right. That was seventeen years ago.

Q: Has it been that long?

A: I know. I can’t believe it.

Q: Did you help lure him into the Narnia fold?

A: I didn’t, no. It was a very happy coincidence. We’ve always
bumped into each other over the years. But I hadn’t seen him in a long
time, and it was lovely working with him again. I do love Michael very,
very much. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of his classic movies, Seven Up!, and 7 Plus Seven, and so on. You talk about a chronicle of life. And he’s a fabulous
director to work with. He loves children. I can only imagine what it
was like on this. That remains the frustration for me. I am just a
voice, the voice of Aslan. So I wasn’t on location, which I wanted to
be.

Q: How is the voice-tracking process for you? Do you find it challenging building a character word by word?

A: It is. I have to say that it was a little frustrating because I
did want to be in the field. I wanted to be on location, working with
the movie crew. I wanted to be with the kids. Back then, they were
kids. This was five or six years ago. But with geography and whatnot, I
wasn’t able to be there. And I regret that. I wish I had met them
instead of at the premiere, which is what happens nowadays. And they’ve
all grown, of course. Ultimately, it’s me in a sound booth. I work
with the director, and I see a computer mock-up of what Aslan’s going
to be doing, what gesture he’s going to be doing and what his look
probably is going to be. Then they put a camera in the sound booth on
my mouth, so that when I speak the lines they are going to subtly put
them into Aslan’s mouth as well. I’m actually very proud of that. But
it’s a little bit frustrating. I just want to be with these children,
these kids, because they’ve all become such fantastic actors over the
years.

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