Clive Standen is the star of Taken, the action-packed television series available to Amazon Prime members, which is currently in its second season. The show acts as an origin story for Bryan Mills, the character made iconic by Liam Neeson and his particular set of skills. It’s stylish, hard-edged and fast paced, just as it should be. While Standen approaches the role of Mills with real heart, to go along with his hard fists and quick trigger finger. It doesn’t hurt that he also bears a credible resemblance to Neeson.
We here at Screen Mayhem were fortunate enough to have an all too brief chat with the tough, sensitive, and very talented actor….
Taken Season 2 is currently underway. What excites or interest you about playing Bryan Mills?
Well, what I took from Liam Neeson’s character in the film, is that he’s very different to most action characters. A lot of action characters out there, they do larger than life things. They’re running up walls and doing back flips, and they seem to be indestructible. There’s no sacrifice . They get punched through windows and get up and brush off the glass and carry on running. That’s not real for me. I need to feel that my imagination buys everything I see on the screen, otherwise I tune out. And I think Bryan Mills is one of those characters… He’s so emotionally invested. In the film he’s trying to find his own daughter. But I think with characters that are driven by emotion, it makes it interesting, because they can also be quite reckless. They can’t see the wood from the trees. They make mistakes. They trip, they stumble. And we want to see what they do when they get up. And there’s a definite sacrifice. In the film, by the time Liam Neeson gets his daughter he’s limping over the finish line. He’s been shot. He’s been thrown through a window. He’s bleeding out. But he gets the mission done. You have to put a bullet in Bryan Mills’s head to stop him from achieving his goal. And that, for me, is why I chose to step into the shoes of Bryan Mills. Because I’m now playing the younger version, which is even more of a blunt instrument. He doesn’t know how to harness that emotion yet. But he has that forward momentum to get the job done, and his moral compass is correct.
So, there’s a kind of a vulnerability to him that you feel may be absent in other action stars and heroes?
Yeah. There seems to be a tendency that a man in an action film has to just be stoic. Almost like The Terminator. And I just don’t think that’s what a real man is, especially not these days. I wanna see a sacrifice. I wanna see the flip side of the coin. For someone who seems to be a hero on the surface, there has to be something they sacrifice. And with Bryan Mills, every time he rips five guys apart, it brings good people together. He has to see those people hugging and going home, hand in hand, arm in arm. Children reunited with parents, husbands and wives. And he goes home alone. And he hasn’t got anybody. And it’s almost like he won’t let anyone get close to him because he sees the bad things that happen in life. For want of a better phrase, every flower he touches turns into a weed. That’s how he feels. There is a definite sacrifice there, and that’s why it pulls our heartstrings and we connect with that character.
I am absolutely sure that I’m the first interviewer to ask you this question. Here goes. In order to assume the role of Bryan Mills, did you need to acquire a very particular set of skills?
(Laughs) Yeah, I suppose so. The first thought is… I just can’t help but think of that Ian McKellan quote in Extras, the Ricky Gervais thing, where he goes, “How do I speak? They tell me what to say! Where do I stand? They tell you!” And that’s the thing with the particular skills. They’re written in the script and then the stunt guys teach me. So there’s a lot that I have to step up and learn. But I do have a basis in a stunt background. I was doing stunts when I was fifteen years old, before I was acting. I grew up just outside Nottinghamshire, near Sherwood Forest and I was jousting and sword fighting, abseiling out of trees and doing stage combat and things, just because it was cash in hand and it was better than working in McDonalds.
More interesting certainly!
Now it’s gone full circle… And I did Muay Thai boxing and things. So there was a lot of martial arts, and I even have a dance background. I was always intrigued by contemporary dance at drama school, as well as learning how to take a punch and fall properly and tumble. So yeah, I suppose I’ve learned a particular set of skills. I just didn’t really know I had them until I got this role.
Wonderful! So what’s next for Clive Standen? What’s coming up now?
I’m a glutton for punishment. I’ve just finished Taken Season 2. I finished about two weeks ago. And I’ve just taken a leading role in a Martin Scorsese produced film called Vault, which I start by getting on a plane tomorrow to Rhode Island. It’s a 1970s gangster heist film based on a true story. It’s gonna be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get my 70s on!
Is that going to require a major facial or head hair adjustment?
I’m growing everything at the moment to keep my options open, but I’m quite interested. I’m playing a real guy, a guy who had pretty curly hair. Maybe I’ll end up with a perm if the producers will let me go that far.
Lovely. Hopefully you won’t be called back to film something for Taken and have to have that CGI’d off you.