Now available on Blu-ray/DVD, Non-Stop is a thrill ride that follows U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), who receives a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account. As things escalate, everyone is a suspect, including the air marshal, himself. From director Jaume Collet-Serra, the film also stars Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong’o, Scoot McNairy, Linus Roache, Corey Stoll and Anson Mount.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Anson Mount talked about how he got involved with the film, how many changes the script went through before they shot it, the duality of the character, the challenges of shooting a fight scene in an airplane bathroom, and how much he enjoyed working with Liam Neeson. He also talked about Season 4 of his AMC drama series Hell on Wheels, where the story is taking them this season, that they’re working on the biggest set they’ve ever had, the great line-up of directors, the new additions to the cast, and how long he sees the story continuing for. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
ANSON MOUNT: Well, that credit goes to, obviously, the writers, but also Jaume Collet-Serra, who’s just a great director. In terms of preserving the whodunit of it, the script did read that way. The script went through a lot of changes, from the time I jumped on board until the time we shot it. Jaume really helped massage the moment-to-moment of the script. The spin machine thought the movie was a polemic against soldiers and that we were turning soldiers into psychotic madmen, which is bullshit. We actually pulled that disgruntled veteran motivational point of view back some. So, from the moment Jaume started working, he was just a non-stop machine of creativity. And he’s really good about involving the actors in that process because he wants the actors to feel ownership over it, as well. We had a good time working together.
How did you originally get involved with the film?
MOUNT: I got sent the script, based on a conversation that had happened between my representatives and Joel Silver. And then, I went and met Joel, who I had never met before. And it turns out that his wife is a huge fan of Hell on Wheels and she made him watch it, and now he’s a huge fan of Hell on Wheels. He was like, “I wanna work with you, so let’s do something. Let’s do this.” And I was like, “Okay, cool.”
Was it the duality of this character that you found appealing?
MOUNT: Yeah, definitely. But, I’m not allowed to see that as a duality. I had to go in and figure out, “Who is this guy, and why would he do something like this?” You have to create a backstory and some sort of motivation that’s concrete for the character, that I can play on and make active. Otherwise, he just could be an empty villain.
Had any of that backstory been in the script, or did you shoot more that got cut?
MOUNT: No, there wasn’t really anything cut. The fight scene was longer, I can tell you that. But, the arc of that character was pretty much the same. Although, Jaume did enlist my help in developing that conversation that [Liam Neeson] and I first have about not creating a situation. I don’t think that was as hooked in with his motivation to keep things calm for the sake of the fact that he was smuggling several kilos of cocaine. That scene became more active and grew. It was only half a page when we first got it, and it grew a little bit.
What were the biggest challenges of working not only in the confined set for the plane, but doing that fight scene in an even more confining airplane bathroom?
MOUNT: First of all, it is challenging, in the sense that you’re in a fuselage for 12 to 15 hours a day, and when you look out the window, you’re not seeing sky, you’re seeing the interior walls of a studio. It’s like you’re in a studio that’s inside of a studio, and a studio is already a very boring place. So, if you go inside the studio inside of the studio, it’s like purgatory. What I was very impressed by was that they figured out a way to make a flying dolly track. There was a flying dolly that hooked on a track, and the tracks were hidden above and behind the above-head compartments. They could just fly the camera up and down the fuselage, all day long, and save a tremendous amount of time. And then, when we did the interior of that bathroom, that was actually a separate little set, on the soundstage, apart from the fuselage, and it was built to have removable walls. We could actually take away one wall or the ceiling, at a time, and get the camera in there to really feel like it’s inside of the bathroom with us.
Did you have to do a lot of rehearsal and blocking for that?
MOUNT: I devoted many, many, many, many of my days off, to come into set, just to rehearse that fight scene with Liam. We wanted it to look good. With the help of our fight choreographer, our consultant and a stunt double, I think we did a pretty good job with it. In terms of all of the maneuvering, the way in which you handle a gun, the way in which we fight, and even the pressure point he went for on my neck, we had a consultant for. It was really good to have expertise. We had a guy there that had, at one point, trained air marshals, so that was pretty cool.
What’s it like to work with someone like Liam Neeson, especially when it comes to doing the action?
MOUNT: First of all, he’s in incredible shape. He’s 63, which blew my mind. Second of all, he’s a very gentle guy. He’s a big guy, but he’s a very gentle guy. Safety first. He’s got nothing to prove. You can tell he’s a guy with his priorities in the right place. I don’t know what his particular deal is, but there’s a point in the day when his work day is done, no questions asked, and he goes home to his boys. I like him a lot.
How will Season 4 of Hell on Wheels be different from the previous three seasons?
MOUNT: In terms of the railroad, there will probably be less progress than in any other season. The whole fourth season is couched around an attempt to get the railroad moving again while it’s mired in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Both Cheyenne and Laramie were built in preparation of the railroad, and by the time the railroad got there, they were rife with crime and they had to figure out how to go in there and rid the towns of the criminal element. They’re also trying to figure out how to get around or through or over the first major summit. We haven’t really timed it out, but I’m guessing the whole season only covers a month and a half or two months.
Also, we had a hell of a set last year, but this year, we kept all of it and we built onto it. This is the biggest set we’ve ever had. It’s really huge. It’s the burgeoning Cheyenne, Wyoming, and it’s amazing. Everywhere you look, there are four layers of depth to the town. I think people will be really amazed by how that has grown.
And then, in terms of Cullen, this is a very different season, in the sense that he’s been forced to mature, for lack of a better word, in a variety of ways. It’s about trying to get him on board with that while, at the same time, maintaining the old hair triggers and the old desires, and the things that he misses about being a drifter and a lawless spirit out there. When you take someone like that, who does have a set of morals, and anchor that down with a family, it’s interesting to see what happens and see how that soul continues to flutter in the breeze, so to speak.
And Cullen Bohannon still has to deal with The Swede.
MOUNT: Yeah. Chris Heyerdahl is doing amazing work again this year. He’s managed to reinvent that character to be a completely different thing, every season. It’s just amazing to watch that happen.
You have a great line-up of directors again, this season. Have there been any particular stand-outs?
MOUNT: Well, we got Neil LaBute back for the first two episodes. That was the first choice. And then, we snapped up Adam Davidson for our finale. We just finished working with Dennie Gordon, who’s a return. We’ve got Michael Nankin coming in, and we weren’t able to get him, last season. We haven’t had him since 205. And we’ve got Rod Lurie coming in, who we haven’t had since the second season either ‘cause he wasn’t available last year. He directed 208, and we’ve got him directing a very important episode for us this year. It may be the most delicate episode of the season that he’s coming in to do for us, which I’m very happy about. I really like him a lot. I did Line of Fire with him, and I love working with him. We’re friends.
The problem with bringing back directors or getting who you want, when you get down to the list of the most talented working television directors, it’s not a long list. There’s competition for the more talented television directors. We’ve been trying to get Michelle MacLaren back since the first season, but she’s just not available. And we’ve got some newbies. Clark Johnson is a newbie for us, but we’re very excited to be working with him. We’ve hit our stride with directors. We’re not really going to tap anybody who’s going to be outside the box or who raises eyebrows, at this point. We like to get people who are not only talented and prepared, but also people who feel like they don’t have too much to prove, and are confident in their abilities and can come in and be fun, loving and conversational when the camera isn’t rolling. We want them to be able to get along with people and not be a basketcase.
MOUNT: Unfortunately, we had to replace Siobhan [Williams], who was playing Naomi, but we found a wonderful actress in Vancouver. When I saw her audition, I called John Wirth immediately and said, “This one. There is no second place for this. This girl gets it.” Her name is MacKenzie Porter. She’s also a musician, and she’s just wonderful. She’s got a really great quality. Her role has actually grown because of what she’s brought to it.
And Jake Weber is actually somebody that I did a movie with 10 years ago. I was impressed with him then, and we’re lucky to have him on this. He’s putting in amazing work. He’s playing a historical character for us. He’s playing a guy named John Campbell, who was the first governor of Wyoming. He’s put quite a spin on the character.
And then, we’ve got another friend of mine, David Wilson Barnes, who’s a very successful stage actor in New York and he’s one of the actors on Halt and Catch Fire. He’s playing the new chief engineer, and we get to bump heads a lot. It’s a lot of fun, doing that with a friend of yours.
And then, we’ve got this great actor named Jonathan Scarfe. We have this role that we wrote this year that was just so good and so flavorful, along Swede proportions. The network really wanted to get a name and went out to several people, and then the casting office decided to hold a session. And just like with MacKenzie, I saw this guy’s audition and I sent an email and said, “We found a Southerner.” His accept was just so spot-on. And then, I did my research and found out the guy was from Toronto. This guy is a real undiscovered talent. He’s just a really good actor. He’s a wild-haired dude like me, and he plays a Southerner. He had done his self-tape audition from the deck of his boat because he was sailing around the world with his family. After he was cast, I called him and he was just porting in Hawaii. He had to sail back to Los Angeles, and then fly here. We’re just really lucky to have him.
Have you had any discussions about how much more story there is to tell with this show? Is there a definite resolution to this show, at some point?
MOUNT: This show will not have resolution until the railroad is completed and Cullen Bohannon in completed, and that may or may not take place at the same moment in time. We’ve got a lot more story to tell. I don’t know how we could do it in just one more season. We’d have to take serious time jumps, and that’s not this show. Right now, we’re in 1868. There’s another two years to tell this story. It’s a six-year project.
MOUNT: Yeah, I think so. Look, I’m just like anybody. There are days when this TV thing, which is my passion, is a job. There are times when I think, “Gosh, I can’t wait to get away from Calgary and go do a play or go do a movie.” But, I’m not a quitter. I don’t feel right, if I don’t finish a job. I have enough guilt, if I don’t finish a book that I don’t like. That’s not to say I don’t like this show. I love this show. But it’s really hard for me to throw a book away that I haven’t completed, and it’s the same for this. I want to see this story completed. How many times, in the United States, do you actually get to finish a series? How many times does it either get cancelled or you run it into the ground and nobody cares anymore? But, if you can end a series the way they did Breaking Bad, that’s really rare. I want to do that.
Non-Stop is now available on Blu-ray/DVD. Hell on Wheels returns to AMC on August 2nd.