Actor Liam Neeson is on novelist Lawrence Block's mind a lot these days. The New York novelist is chock-a-block with anticipation as one of his novels, "A Walk Among the Tombstones," is being filmed on the streets of Manhattan, and Neeson is starring as the character Matthew Scudder.
Recently, Block was invited by the producers to visit the set of the movie and came away as happy as an author can be.
"I paid my third visit to the movie set of 'A Walk Among the Tombstones,'" he said the other day, noting that his first visit was to a Delancey Street diner, where he watched Leeson and director Scott Frank in action, too. "I also went to shoot at a crumbling mansion in the Whitestone section of Queens — Yuri's house in the book — for a phone call between Matt and bad-guy Ray. And then we were in Brooklyn's Green-Wood Cemetery for Matt's confrontation with Ray and his equally unpleasant pal."
Block, now in his mid-70s, and a frequent guest on TV talk shows, says that he has visited film sets before but never found them very exciting.
This time, with Leeson as Scudder, "was different," he said. "[It's] hard to say why this time was different," he noted. All I can say is that last night, I watched them shoot the same brief scene over and over again, and I hung on every word. I, who knew how it would come out, still found the tension considerable."
The shooting is set to wrap sometime in May, Block said, with a final cut months away and a release date sometime in 2014.
"A Walk Among the Tombstones" was the tenth book in the Matthew Scudder series, In an earlier interview with The Wrap in 2011, Block said that he "couldn’t be happier" with the Hollywood treatment that was then in the pipeline.
"Liam Neeson as Scudder struck me as a wonderful idea back when I saw him portray Michael Collins in the eponymous film," Block said at the time. "I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see in the role.''
"Readers often ask who’d be my ideal Matt Scudder, and I usually change the subject," Block added. "But now it’s safe to tell you that, ever since I saw him in 'Michael Collins', Neeson has been up at the top of my personal Scudder wish list. I couldn’t be happier about either the star or the writer/director, both of them genuine artists and brilliant
professionals. My book’s in good hands.''
Block told me this new movie is not the first time that ''A Walk Among The Tombstones'' got greenlighted. Harrison Ford was scheduled to play Scudder in the earlier deal, but it never worked out, he said.
The ''Scudder'' series began in 1976, with "A Walk Among the Tombstones" published in 1992, so it's been a long 20-year-plus wait for this film version. But come 2014, it'll be a dream come true. Neeson fans will be delighted, as will Block's devoted readers.
By the way, for those keeping score, Scudder made it to Hollywood once before when Jeff Bridges played him in "8 Million Ways To Die."