In the high-intensity action-thriller “Non-Stop” starring Liam Neeson, actor Scoot McNairy stars as Tom Bowen, a passenger on a non-stop flight from New York to London, who is caught up in what may be a hijacking situation when a U.S Federal Marshal (Neeson) begins to receive text messages threatening the lives of everyone on the airplane.
During his 13-year career, McNairy, 36, has starred in such films as “Monsters,” “Killing Them Softly” and “Promised Land.” He also had roles in the last two Best Picture Oscar winners, “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave.”
In the last 86 years of the Academy Awards, only two actors (Wallis Clark and Harry Davenport) have starred in three consecutive films that went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s quite possible McNairy’s name could be added to that short list next year if his film “Gone Girl,” directed by David Fincher (“The Social Network”), is nominated, which is definitely a possibility according to most Oscar pundits.
During an interview with me for the DVD/Blu-ray release of “Non-Stop,” McNairy talked about the badassedness of actor Liam Neeson, his fear of airplanes and working with two-time Oscar nominated director Fincher on “Gone Girl,” which hits theaters this fall.
Since you spent some time with Liam Neeson on the set of “Non-Stop,” from your estimation, what it is about him that has made him become such a badass on the big screen since around 2008?
Because he’s such a badass in person! All you have to do is put a camera on the guy. He’s so fascinating to watch. But he is one of the nicest most down-to-earth guys I’ve met. You just want to be around him.
This is one of those films where you really don’t know who the bad guy is until the very end. Is it frustrating for you as an actor when reviews or websites spoil the ending in some way?
Not necessarily. I don’t really read reviews. I like to go to the movies and form my own opinion. People shouldn’t go on websites if they don’t want to know the ending of a movie. In this movie, even if you know the ending, it’s still incredible to watch how everything unfolds. It has a good vibe and is still worth the watch.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra does a good job setting up tense scenes. I though he did that with his 2009 film “Orphan” and again here with “Non-Stop.” What kind of director is he on the set and how is he able to create this suspenseful tone?
He is very, very specific and detailed. He knows exactly what he wants. I agree with you. He has a talent in building suspense. He’s incredible at making thrillers. He’s really great with his actors. He’s really focused.
Speaking of directors, you’ve worked with some great ones over the last few years like Terry Zwigoff, Gus Van Sant and Ben Affleck. Is that something you look at when you’re choosing a project?
Sometimes. It’s always great to work with a director you admire and respect. But sometimes it’s the script you identify with. I would say it’s probably 50/50.
Since this film has a lot to do with airport security, or lack thereof, is that something you worry about as a passenger? Last week, the airport in Detroit went on lockdown because a man forced his way through the security checkpoint. Then just this week a man drove his truck through a security gate in Wichita, Kansas. Do you think about those things or have we gotten to the point where we feel we’re pretty safe these days on an airplane?
You’re asking the wrong guy. I’m terrified of flying. Never mind bombs or things like that. I’m just scared to take off and land in a plane. Reading the script [for “Non-Stop”], I really identified with the fear of not having control of your life.
As an actor who I’m assuming spends a lot of time on airplanes, how do you handle that?
Very, very carefully. I’m very delicate with myself before boarding a plane. There’s a lot of prep time involve. Even then, I still panic on takeoff. I may grab the person’s arm next to me. Once we’re up in the air though, I calm down.
You’ve starred in the last two Best Picture Oscar winners, “Argo” and “12 Years a Slave.” Should I go put my money down on “Gone Girl” for this year?
You know, maybe. [Director David] Fincher makes incredible movies, so there’s no doubt in my mind this movie will be a good one. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed even just to work with all the people I’ve worked with on those projects.
I’m assuming working with Fincher was an incredible experience.
Absolutely. Even before I wanted to be an actor I wanted to work with that guy. To work with him was really fun and exciting and something I can check off my Bucket List. I’m hoping I can come back and work with him again.
Someone you’ve worked with and seen grow this year is director Gareth Edwards who put you in his 2010 film “Monsters.” What did you think about what he was able to do with the reboot of “Godzilla?”
Gareth is one of those people that will deliver an amazing story, whether you give him $100 grand or $100 million. He’s an incredible talent. We haven’t even gotten to the surface of what he can actually do. He’s a lovely, really funny guy. He’s great to hang out with.
You’ve been in this industry for about 13 years now. What have you learned about yourself as an actor over that time?
The more preparation I do, the more comfortable I feel. All and all, I’d say I just try to keep up with it. The work days are long, but you really have to love what you’re doing, and I do. It’s very rewarding. I’ve worked really hard and am very satisfied to be where I’m at.