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Like its illustrious predecessor, ‘Taken 2’ highlights non-stop, high-octane action. But the realities of shooting in that exciting but challenging environment meant the filmmakers had to think fast to keep the action going. In Istanbul and other locations, fight coordinator Alain Figlarz worked closely that Liam Neeson and director Olivier Megaton, who cast Figlarz in a key role. “It was good to have a real fighter be a character in the movie,” says the director. “And it was a huge thing for Liam, to act opposite the same guy who was coordinating the onscreen battles.”
Figlarz pioneered the close combat fighting techniques that marked ‘The Bourne Identity’, and for ‘Taken 2’ he employed variations – and even more extreme versions – of that style. Megaton continues: “Alain is an original. He’s so precise and sharp. There is always logic to his action. He was in the Special Forces, so he knows these moves from experience.”
One of the most memorable non-combat action sequences in the film is a car chase through the streets of Istanbul, with learner-driver Kim behind the wheel. She’s terrified, understandably so, at the prospect of outrunning her pursuers on some of the most densely-trafficked streets in the world.
Another propulsive action sequence sees a character dashing across the roof of the Grand Bazaar. Shooting atop this landmark was both a coup and a logistical challenge. “There are only four different concrete lines on the roof we were able to step on,” explains Megaton. “And you can’t deviate because it’s too fragile. No crane could be installed and we could only go forwards or backwards with a Steadicam, because going to the side is too far.” Even fixing the camera onto cables would have been impossible, as it would have meant attaching the wires to mosques and other buildings that have stood for hundreds of years. Megaton’s solution was ingeniously simple: he had a camera mounted onto a small toy helicopter and flew it around the actor to get the shots.
Says Neeson: “With the action, Olivier is phenomenally efficient and proficient with his camera. There would always be three or four cameras working, and that’s exciting.”
But as comfortable as Megaton clearly is with action, he’s equally adept at capturing real, human emotion. Says Neeson: “When there were dialogue scenes between Famke (Janssen), Maggie (Grace) and myself, we didn’t analyze things too much; Olivier just let us explore it.”