In the film Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, Liam Neeson portrays Mark Felt, the deputy director of the FBI who became known as “Deep Throat.”

The film focuses on Felt just after the FBI’s longtime leader, J. Edgar Hoover, has died in the early

1970s. Felt is passed over to head the FBI by a White House-affiliated replacement. Shortly after, there’s a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel – and rather than allow the FBI to do their jobs, there are told to wrap it up quickly. This prompts Felt, a staunch believer in keeping the FBI separate from the government, to leak information to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward that eventually ends Richard Nixon’s presidency.

At the recent press day, Liam Neeson shared these five thoughts about playing Mark Felt and his relevancy today.

On playing Mark Felt:

Liam Neeson: I wanted to present what [writer/director] Peter Landesman had written. There was very little known about Mark’s relationship with his wife, with his daughter, for whom he was devoted, but she had run off to join a commune. Interestingly, Bob Woodward knew nothing of that aspect of his friend. That shows you just how much Mark Felt was able to compartmentalize his life, and he was trained to do that by Hoover and 30 years in the FBI.

In the interviews of saw of him, you thought you could see the man but there was always a screen there. As an actor, I find that interesting. There’s lots of scenes of walking down corridors and talking on telephones and talking to other guys in suits. It’s presenting that and trying to keep an audience interested. These are bureaucrats.

On what surprised him about Felt:

Neeson: His devotion to his wife [Audrey, played by Diane Lane] and his daughter. This compartmentalization he was able to do and his colleagues were able to do. He was just very proud of what he did and he was very proud of the Hoover legacy and what he stood for. The FBI and CIA get attacked all the time for nefarious deeds, which I’m sure they do, but I like to think that, ultimately, they’re keeping us safe, when everything’s all added up. Certainly, the FBI.

When these guys are in their office, they have a screen over themselves. It’s the same with policeman and people in the military—they have to keep their emotions in check because otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to do their job. Fighting wars, arresting people, spying in people—a lot of it is very covert. They’ve been trained—sometimes at great cost to their family life—to keep all this emotion in check, but there are still beating hearts there. They’re still human beings. I hope our film shows a bit of both sides.

We shot a lot more stuff with Diane that might end up on the DVD director’s cut. I feel saddened a little that we’ve lost some of that stuff for audiences, because as devoted as he was to the FBI, he was devoted to her, too.

On having a better understanding about the Watergate scandal:

Neeson: My research made me aware of the scale of it and how it reinforced in me—and it’s the same with growing up in Belfast—you don’t know who to believe anymore. You’ve been lied to and there’s smoke and mirrors all the time with elected leaders who claim to be representing us, and they have to be held accountable, especially when they break the law. When they think they’re above the law, as Richard Nixon felt, because he was President and whatever he said was above the law and, of course, it’s not.

On modern-day whistleblowers like Edward Snowden:

Neeson: There’s the classic question: Is he a traitor? Is he a hero? What? Certainly, the interviews I’ve seen with him in the past, there’s a legitimate argument for both. Snowden seems to think the public has to see what the government’s doing. The freedom of the press is tantamount to any free society. They have to be able to do their job. I’m not talking about gossip columnists and all that stuff but the real issues. Our elected leaders have to be held accountable.

On lessons young people can take away from this film:

Neeson: You’re a citizen of the country so you have a right and you have a right to protest. I’m not going to attack the Trump Administration—the guy has to be given his time and the Cabinet has to be given it’s time—but people are out protesting, especially women. It’s great to see people out there protesting again. That doesn’t seem to have happened for many many years. It’s like, “Yes, get in there. Get on the streets. Make your voice heard. You have a right to protest. It’s great, certainly with the women’s movement.

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