NEW YORK, Feb. 27 (UPI) -- Most people would expect strapping, Northern Irish-born movie hero Liam Neeson to spring into action should a real-life emergency arise on an airplane, but the star of the in-flight murder mystery "Non-Stop" confesses he just doesn't know what he would do if put to the test.
"I, thankfully, have never been in that situation. You like to think you'd be heroic, but who knows?" the 61-year-old actor said at a recent press conference in New York.
So, does that mean the star of "Michael Collins," "Taken" and "Batman Begins" wouldn't just start kicking butt and taking names if he were on a flight and someone were threatening the passengers and crew?
"I don't think so. I'm a pacifist," he insisted.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the film casts Neeson as Bill Marks, an alcoholic air marshal tasked with finding and stopping the anonymous text-messaging flier who is picking off passengers on a New York to London red-eye flight. Nate Parker and Julianne Moore play the only fellow travelers Bill trusts, while Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong'o play crew members trying desperately to maintain order as people panic and the plane rockets over the Atlantic Ocean.
Asked if working on the film caused him to consider how we walk the line of vigilance and paranoia in a post-Sept. 11, 2011 world, Neeson replied: "We all know the nightmares of airports nowadays. It's playing on those fears, but it's an entertainment.
"A lot of the journalists in Europe -- quite a few were asking about Sept. 11 -- and I was like, 'Oh, please.' However, that being so, I don't think the film could have been made a few years ago. It would have been totally insensitive. It's a backdrop to a thriller, that's what it is," he explained. "Listen, we all know what security at airports is like. We've all experienced it and it's a nightmare. But these are the times we are living in. Once we get through to that other end, I totally relax. I love flying. I feel totally safe."
No stranger to fight training, Neeson found himself back in the gym to prepare for his latest role.
"I've done a mongrel version of fight stuff for years, depending on what the action is in the film, but, in this one, we didn't want to adopt martial arts because it would be so corny," he noted.
"Whatever physical altercations happen on the airplane, we wanted to make them real. I worked quite closely with a Special Forces guy who trained air marshals. We came up with the fight in the bathroom based on what he was trained to do in very, very close combat situations. What you would do to disarm someone? So, we tried to keep that real and exciting too, of course."
The "Star Wars" franchise alum seemed surprised to hear people think of him as an expert fighter just because he often plays one on the big screen.
"You learn it and then you forget. It's like learning a dance for a scene or studying for an exam," he reasoned. "You study and then you've forgotten half of it -- except for the light saber. I know how to handle that."
"Non-Stop" lands in theaters nationwide Friday.