In 2008’s Taken, Liam Neeson’s turn as a retired special-ops agent trying to rescue his kidnapped daughter from sex traffickers in Paris did a lot more than scare teens away from ever wanting to visit Europe.
It was also a surprise blockbuster, collecting $226 million worldwide and reestablishing the Schindler’s List Oscar-nominee as a major action star.
In Taken 2 (out Oct. 5), Neeson returns as Bryan Mills, the CIA agent with “a particular set of skills” for hunting down bad guys, but this time his daughter (Maggie Grace) has to help rescue him when associates of the villains he killed the first time around decide to get their revenge.
As you will see from EW’s three first look photos, Neeson’s character is not taking his own kidnapping lying down.
Director Olivier Megaton (Colombiana, Transporter 3) takes over filmmaking duties from the original movie’s Pierre Morell, but screenwriters Robert Mark Kamen and Luc Besson (who also produced) are both back. And Famke Janssen, who played Neeson’s ex-wife, is also returning for the second go-round.
Below, Neeson speaks with EW about what’s changing and what’s staying the same for the sequel.
EW: A dangerous father, his independent-minded daughter, his frustrated ex-wife… those are the key elements, but this isn’t going to be a domestic drama, I’m guessing.
LIAM NEESON: [Laughs] No, it’s not a very quiet, intimate, little European story, that’s for sure.
Anyone who has seen the original knows [SPOILER ALERT] there’s a happy ending. So where is Bryan Mills now, and how is his relationship with his ex and his daughter?
I’ve taken a job over in Istanbul looking after a sheik who is there, and afterward I discover that my wife’s going through a very bad time with her new husband. So I suggest she and my daughter come over for a few days and hang out with me in this amazing city. And then… [laughs] all this s—t happens, of course.
How much time has passed since he saved her?
The action is supposed to take place about a year or a year and a half after the first story. It’s a very clever sequel with the usual thrills and spills, but the ante is upped quite a bit in this one.
NEXT PHOTO: Neeson makes sure sparks will fly.
A higher ante than saving his daughter from forced prostitution? What’s happening to her now?
I was joking with Jimmy Fallon the other night, and he said, “Let me guess, let me guess… She’s not taken this time, he’s kicked her out because she’s such a pain in the ass, right?’ [Laughs.]
That would definitely be a twist! From what I understand, the survivors of the people you exterminated in the first movie are coming after you.
Yeah, I took out a lot of Albanian guys — smugglers and sex traffickers. They met grisly ends. So now it’s their uncles, brothers, fathers, who have motive to find this guy, come hell or high water.
So last time he was seeking them out, and this time they’re on his trail.
I’m taken — let’s put it that way. They kidnap him to humiliate him, torture him, and ultimately bring him back to the village in Albania where the boys from the original film came from. With the help of my daughter… she wants to help me escape from where these bad guys have me.
Bryan Mills is fairly stoic. Does he change much between the first film and this one?
He’s a bit mellower, I think. Having gone through the horror of the first film, and because of the success of retrieving his daughter, his notoriety has traveled and these major politicians and sheiks want him to be in their camp. He organizes the security situation. He’s still retired from his special-forces group, but he takes private commissions.
You’ll be 60 in June, yet you’re now as serious an ass-kicker as any younger action star. What’s your prep like?
I had to up my pushups and sit-ups. There’s quite a bit of running, and quite a bit of fighting. There are some real nasty bad guys here.
Where did the film shoot?
We shot in Istanbul for five or six weeks before Christmas, then we were in L.A. for a week, and then we were in Paris earlier this year, and I have to go back over soon because there are a few little scenes we can improve. It’ll be lovely to see Famke again, and Maggie. We make a good team, the girls in my life.
Can we expect many more films in this series?
We joke about doing Taken 3, Taken 4, Taken 5, and so on. It’s funny to be doing this at 60. I just hope my knees hold up.
Maybe in Taken 10 that’s what will go missing — functioning joints.
[Laughs] I’d better hold on to those.
The reinvention of Liam Neeson: As an action star, he’s an aging, and ageless, dynamo