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Liam Neeson wants people to talk to their children about death

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Kayleigh Dray
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A Monster Calls, based on Siobhan Dowd’s novel of the same name, weaves a compelling story about a young boy named Conor (Lewis MacDougal) as he struggles to deal with the terminal illness of his mother (Felicity Jones).

Liam Neeson’s role in the film, in a step away from the likes of Taken and Love Actually, sees him lend his iconic voice to a mysterious tree monster, who comes to visit Conor and tell him stories late at night. Over time, the pair manage to forge a friendship – and, together, work on fixing Conor’s unhappy life.



The project was an incredibly personal one for Neeson, who recently lost a relative to breast cancer, and he hopes that it will encourage parents to speak to their children openly and honestly about death.

“[Cancer] is a horrible disease and I guess (it's) wonderful a film like this can really confront something like that,” he told WENN. “We all live in hope but sometimes it's important to see something for what it is. If you have two weeks left or three weeks maximum, it's important that the family hears that and the kids hear it too.”

Neeson continued: “I think that really comes across in the film. The character of Conor is desperate to be told the truth and to hear, 'Oh, you wouldn't understand', is infuriating for a kid because they can take things on board.

“They may not intellectualise what they've heard but they can grow and eventually understand it. It's important to have support of family and close friends to lean on and talk to. Conor doesn't and that's why he conjures this essence, this creature to cope with it."



As many fans of the actor will no doubt be aware, Neeson lost his wife of 15 years, Natasha Richardson, after a freak skiing accident in 2009.

The Handmaid’s Tale star had been taking private lessons in Quebec when she fell, tumbling down the hill on a beginner’s ski slope.

Richardson, who had not been wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, initially seemed fine and joked about the fall. However it later transpired that she had hit the left side of her face, which tore a blood vessel in the brain. This later proved fatal. 

Liam Neeson and his late wife Natasha Richardson

Liam Neeson and his late wife Natasha Richardson

Speaking about the incident last year, her eldest son Micheál (who was 13 at the time of her death) revealed that he had found it difficult to grieve for his mother, and that the loss had led him down a path of excessive partying.

“Of course, when it happened it was devastating,” Micheál told the Sunday Times Style magazine.

“But in my mind, subconsciously, I either pushed it out or stored it deep inside. And so, within the next week I was like, 'OK, get on with my life'.

“Everybody said, ‘This kid has lost his mum, that's where the problem comes from.’ And I was like, ‘No, it isn't, I just like to party.’”



It wasn’t until 2014, with the help of his father and younger brother Daniel, that Micheál was able to get his life back on track.

"Anytime I hear that door opening, I still think I'm going to hear her.”

"Anytime I hear that door opening, I still think I'm going to hear her.”

Liam spoke out on how he has coped with his wife's death a few years ago during a poignant interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes, in which he admitted that the loss still did not feel real to him.

Explaining how he’d arrived at a Canadian hospital to be told his wife was brain dead after her accident, he said: “She was on life support... I went in to her and I told her I loved her, said 'Sweetie, you're not coming back from this, you've banged your head.’''



Neeson continued: “She and I had made a pact, if any of us got into a vegetative state that we'd pull the plug. That was my immediate thought, ‘Okay, these tubes have to go. She's gone.”

The Star Wars actor, who married Richardson in 1994, went on to admit that he still expects his wife to come walking through the door even now.

“[Her death] was never real,” he told Anderson.

“It still kind of isn't. There's periods now in our New York residence when I hear the door opening, especially the first couple of years... anytime I hear that door opening, I still think I'm going to hear her.”

A Monster Calls will arrive in UK cinemas in January 2017.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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