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TAKEN 2

Production Information
From acclaimed filmmaker Luc Besson (who co-scripted and produces TAKEN 2), co-screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen (who has penned both TAKEN films with Besson), and director Olivier Megaton (Columbiana, Transporter 3), TAKEN 2 follows the global success of Taken, released in 2008, which earned $224 million in worldwide box office. Audiences cheered Neeson as Bryan Mills, an overprotective father whose skills - forged through years of covert ops - were put to the test long after his retirement from the CIA.

Resolute in his quest to rescue his daughter, Bryan took extreme measures, making sure her kidnappers paid the ultimate price. Two years later, their family is seeking vengeance against Bryan and his family.

"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you, I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

Bryan's warning, addressed to the men who had taken his daughter, and his subsequent making good on the promise contained within, captured the imaginations of audiences around the world and made Taken one of the most successful and relatable action thrillers of recent years. "The situation Bryan finds himself in is something any of us can relate to," says Neeson. "If your child was threatened, you'd do anything to right that wrong."

"Taken hit a nerve with people," agrees Famke Janssen, who plays Lenore. "I think it was the notion that if something happens to a family member, what would you do? How far would you be willing to go? Audiences really identified with Bryan Mills."

The role of Bryan was a notable departure for Neeson. Before Taken, he had been celebrated for his work in dramatic fare, like the Oscar -nominated Schindler's List. Taken, a full-throttle action-thriller, was more than just an assignment for Neeson; it fulfilled his childhood ambitions. "The film appealed to the young person in me," he laughs. "It was a chance to be in Paris for three months and to do fight training, and I love all that physical stuff. It was a great release."

For Neeson, returning to the character of Bryan Mills in TAKEN 2 meant drawing on the experience gleaned from roles in action films subsequent - and largely due - to his work in Taken. "When I acted in [the summer 2010 film] The A-Team I met a military weapons expert who is still operational," he says. "He was a big guy who, while we were shooting, would disappear for four days and come back with a stomach wound, and you knew he'd been on a mission in Iraq or Afghanistan."

The undisclosed consultant told stories about real field operations - the kind Bryan would have engaged in during his time at the CIA - that had a profound effect on the actor. "I mean, forget James Bond; this is the real deal. And he's still doing it. He was a great source to draw on."

Neeson confesses that he enjoys the physicality of the role. "It's great to do that stuff, and we have a terrific stunt team," he enthuses. "I have a wonderful stunt double, Mark Vanselow, who's my buddy, and he's been in my life, professionally, for 12 or 13 years. He does all the hard stuff! Returning to Bryan was a chance to get with Mark again and do all the fight training."

TAKEN 2 picks up two years after the events of Taken. Bryan's relationship with his daughter Kim has grown stronger, and he hopes to reunite with ex-wife Lenore. "Even before he encounters the new threat to his family, Bryan is on a mission to get closer to Kim and Lenore," says director Olivier Megaton.

Kim was a passive victim in the first film, but in TAKEN 2 it's clear the interim two years have changed her. Under the tutelage of her father, she's developed some of his instincts and is much better equipped to cope with the crisis that develops during their family reunion in Istanbul. "She's her father's daughter, and she's finding out what she's capable of," says Grace. "In the first film, Kim was young and naive and didn't know much about the real world," adds Megaton. "But something incredible happened to her, and she reconstructed herself. She has matured. She doesn't want to be passive again."

Lenore, too, is changing. After Kim's kidnapping and Lenore's separation from her new husband, it seems there may be a chance for Bryan and Lenore to reconcile. "Their connection has suddenly become very strong because Lenore has been going through a hard time," explains Neeson. "Bryan is a shoulder for her to lean on, and the relationship grows from there."

Lenore, like her daughter, has matured since the events of the first film. "Lenore wasn't very likable in Taken," Megaton points out. "She was always well-dressed, always perfect, but we tried to give her a bit more humanity in this one."

Janssen agrees that Lenore didn't come off especially well in the first film. "I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and said, 'You were such a bitch in Taken!' But in this movie, because Lenore is herself in danger, you care for her. So it made sense for me to soften her up a little and make her more likable."

With Neeson, Janssen and Grace returning for TAKEN 2, there remained the challenge of casting the film's new villain, Murad. Acclaimed character actor Rade Sherbedgia takes on the role, which Megaton promises is "a far cry from your typical bad guy. Murad is pursuing Bryan for a big and very fair reason, which is that he wants his justice for his son, who died at Bryan's hand."

Unlike most movie villains, Murad desires neither power nor money, and he possesses no special training. "Murad is not a criminal by profession," says Sherbedgia. "He is not a warrior. But he has made it his mission to extract justice from Bryan."

Megaton looked at a number of actors for the role, and selected Sherbedgia after the actor sent some trial footage he shot himself. "While watching Rade's footage, I was suddenly dropped into the reality of Murad's situation," the director enthuses. "And Rade adds so much to the movie, because he's a father, too. Liam is a father protecting his daughter and Rade is a father avenging his son."

Bryan's encounters with Murad are memorable, and Neeson is particularly fond of his character's final battle with the Balkan baddie. "Bryan, at this stage of his journey, is genuinely sick of killing," says Neeson. "He has physically become a machine when he gets into the mindset of taking out these bad guys. I think his big worry is that the machine may take over from the human being. For the sake of his daughter, his ex-wife and his own soul, he wants to stop."

For the actors and filmmakers, the decision to return for a sequel was not taken lightly. Taken had captured something special, and everyone was determined to find a fresh angle on Bryan Mills's tale. "When I read Luc and Robert's script," Megaton explains, "I found the openings to do something new. It's not just another Bryan Mills story; it's about family and a father determined to save it."

"The writers were really wonderful in how they approached the new story," says Maggie Grace. "It retains all the elements that worked so well in Taken, and then expands upon them. Bryan, Kim and Lenore are fighting to survive - and for each other."

Much of the action in TAKEN 2 unfolds in Istanbul, a locale rarely seen on screen. Megaton spent a good portion of his prep time scouting locations and walking around the city for hours at a time. When principal photography commenced, he knew Istanbul's streets and passageways better than some of the local crew.

Neeson says shooting in Istanbul was like nothing he has experienced. "Istanbul is where east meets west - a beautiful city full of wonderful people," notes the actor, who has filmed on locations around the globe but remains most impressed with Istanbul's singular sights and sounds.

Everywhere the crewmembers turned, they were faced with a landmark. Key locales included the front of the Süleymaniye Mosque, one of the city's grandest buildings; the Grand Bazaar, a 15th Century Istanbul landmark that takes up an entire city block and welcomes more than a quarter of a million visitors every day; and a traditional hamam, or Turkish bath, home to the film's explosive finale.

Director of photography Romain Lacourbas, enhanced the vivid palette of these stunning locations. "You could almost touch the light and it would change hue," says Neeson. "And there are shots where you see the whole city laid out in front of you." Adds Maggie Grace: "Being given carte blanche to see behind the scenes of this incredible city, you can literally feel its history."

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 Neeson and 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, Maggie and myself, we didn't analyze things too much; Olivier just let us explore it."

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