The Way Forward: Liam Neeson on an Encounter with a Black Bear, Shinrin-yoku, and Becoming Increasingly Political

The iconic actor, whose new movie Made in Italy opens today, shares his pandemic experience and looks ahead to the future.

During the pandemic, I’ve been spending a lot of time in reflection about life, myself and my family, and also reading; I think I’m on my 28th or 29th book, and have been reading a lot of Don Winslow and Henning Mankell, a fantastic Nordic noir writer who passed away about five years ago. I’m trying to trying to make my way through Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and I’m determined to succeed, even though every Russian character has three different names. But I’ll persist.

I feel very fortunate that I own my own house and that I know where my next meal is coming from – unlike millions in this country, led by an excuse for an administration. I can’t believe I’ve been here in my house in upstate New York since March 20; I’ve seen maybe two people in all that time.

I learned this wonderful word yesterday from a friend of mine who lives in Colorado. It’s the Japanese word shinrin-yoku, which basically means finding a peace that comes from being in nature. And I’ve been doing that a lot. It seems like I’ve been here for a change of three seasons, and seeing the birds nesting and flying away, and rabbits coming close to the door because they know I’m going to throw out a bit of a carrot or a piece of apple. I saw a black bear a few weeks ago and we encountered each other, maybe 60 feet apart. It wasn’t threatening, we just looked at each other. He or she then went about groveling for grubs in the ground. Every so often, he or she would look at me again, and then we went our separate ways. That was just electric for me. It’s one of the moments I will never, ever forget, and I guess it was a pandemic moment. It was quite something.

It feels like there’s more solitude where I am right now in upstate New York, but this moment is also making me want to be more political, the more I see this inept government and the personal responsibility they should bear for the many thousands of lives that we’ve lost in this country. That’s making me really fucking angry. That’s my brutally honest perspective.

I don’t know exactly what the future of the film industry will be, but I know that the distributor of our film Made in Italy has been working with movie theaters on a daily basis to help as many people as possible to see it. I’m very lucky that there is a drive-in movie theater, Four Brothers, that’s literally 15 minutes from where I live, which made national headlines a few weeks ago because it’s so popular. Recently, I went there myself for the first time and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was in my car, there were about 80 other cars there, and it was just a magical experience. Made in Italy will be playing at Four Brothers (as well as numerous other drive-ins across the country) from today, and on August 8, I will be going there with my son Michael, who’s the star of the film, to welcome the audience and thank them for showing up. And it’s going to be lovely.

Liam Neeson stars as Robert in Made in Italy, opposite Micheál Richardson, Lindsay Duncan and Valeria Bilello, which is currently in theaters and on demand through IFC Films. He is an internationally recognized actor who is best known for his work in more than 70 films including Schindler’s List, Michael Collins, Kinsey, The Grey, the blockbuster Taken trilogy, Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins, Love Actually and Gangs of New York. Over the course of his career, Neeson’s films have grossed over $7 billion worldwide. The actor is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and the proud father of two sons.