Liam Neeson has fielded a fantastic array of roles across his nearly 40-year career. However, with a developing film project from the writer of The Departed, he could have a role that stands as one of the few fictional characters who can pass as the singular embodiment of an entire genre in the classic film noir detective Philip Marlowe.
According to Variety, Liam Neeson has attached himself to a developing untitled Marlowe spec script by William Monahan, the scribe behind Leonardo DiCaprio-toplining films in 2006’s The Departed and 2008’s Body of Lies as well as director Ridley Scott’s 2005 Crusades epic Kingdom of Heaven. The project will serve as a reboot of sorts to Raymond Chandler’s paradigm-setting private dick. The Philip Marlowe character – debuted in 1939 – has manifested in myriad books, pulp magazines and movies, most famously portrayed by Humphrey Bogart in 1947’s The Big Sleep, along with versions over subsequent decades by James Garner (in a run that inspired The Rockford Files), Eliot Gould and Robert Mitchum.
On Liam Neeson joining his project Monahan comments:
“It’s hard to tell who has the more of a lion’s heart and soul, Philip Marlowe or Liam Neeson. I hope I’ve done the both of them and a picture I could not anticipate more some service.”
Monahan’s Marlowe script comes with a twist, adapting the 2014 novel The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black (nom de plume of John Banville). Set in the early 1950’s, the story depicts the detective dealing with getting older while seeing his business clientele diminish. However, in a paradigmatic film noir setup, a would-be client in a beautiful blonde arrives at his door, tasking him with finding a missing ex. Consequently, Marlowe once again finds himself immersed in a complicated mystery; one tied to San Francisco’s most powerful and ruthless crime families.
Indeed, the role of a gruffer version of Marlowe in a film update would be a perfect fit for Liam Neeson. The Northern Ireland-born actor whose early career culminated with a 1994 Best Actor nomination as the title character of Schindler’s List, has since reinvented himself as a grizzled action star attached to Chuck Norris-like Internet memes since his role as Henry Ducard/Ra’s Al Ghul in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins led to roles as the ass-kicking possessor of “a very particular set of skills” in the Taken Trilogy, as Zeus in Clash of the Titans and its sequel, franchise reboot The A-Team, frozen survival epic The Grey, board game movie Battleship, and mob actioner Run All Night – Oh yeah, and he was in Star Wars, too as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace.
The Marlowe project will be a production from Nickel City Pictures and Gary Levinson. While it has yet to name a director, its writer William Monahan has directed a few of his own script projects in 2015’s Mojave and 2010’s London Boulevard. No significant dates have been announced.