An intriguing look at the dark side of human nature, but often with a glimmer of grim humour, The Good Liar, an adaptation of the book of the same name by Nicholas Searle, brings together two stellar actors – Oscar-winner Helen Mirren (The Queen) and two-time Oscar-nominee Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and Gods and Monsters) together for the first time in a film directed and produced by Bill Condon.
“It’s a thriller with a Hitchcock-ian feel, weaving in elements of mystery, crime and human drama. At its heart are two beautifully complex characters played by two of the greatest actors of all time, at the top of their form, who can keep you guessing like a classic whodunnit till the very end. It’s all wickedly fun,” says Condon, about the film, which is about a con man who sets his sights on a widow worth millions.
Helen Mirren plays Betty McLeish, who she describes as “sweet”, adding, “She doesn’t appear to be strong or tough at all. Like a lot of people, she feels there’s something missing in her life. She’s looking for companionship, someone to go out to dinner with or to the theatre, and along comes this man, who’s funny and engaging and could be exactly what she’s looking for.” Excerpts from a chat with the renowned actress:
What did you like about your character, Betty?
I liked her intelligence, sweetness, kindness, her sense of empathy, and her fundamental decency. But what I really loved was that she’s in the story.
She’s not extraneous to it – not on the sidelines, watching the story unfold and evolve, as very often female characters are, especially older female characters. She’s right in the centre of the story. That was what really made me want to do the movie.
Chemistry is vital for a film like this. How would you describe your rapport with Ian McKellen?
My rapport with Ian is built on all kinds of layers that can only exist if you’ve lived the lives that Ian and I have lived. We both started off as theatre actors – classical theatre, on a high level – and lived and worked in the theatre for many years. Also, we both had very substantial film careers, worked on television and film, over a long period of time. We’ve actually only worked together once before, and that was on Broadway, but we’ve swum in the same pond, or the same sea, for a long time, and that history made our relationship what it is.
Are you fond of suspense thrillers film?
Very much so. They are my go-to kind of movie. I just love a good story, where I get that “really didn’t see that coming” feeling.
Deep dark secrets
Mirren feels that everyone has secrets, no matter who they are. “We have our own private, totally individual personal life, then we have our family life, and our work life. I think, within your personal and private life inevitably you hold secrets. Maybe secrets that you’re not even aware that you’re holding, psychological secrets that are so buried you don’t really know they’re there, unless some occasion brings them out,” she shares.