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Neeson acknowledges the 'former enemy'.

It was touch and go for a while whether actor Liam Neeson would be able to take on the physically-demanding role of the popular Captain Polenin in K19 as he was still recovering from injuries he received in a near fatal bike crash.

The strapping Irish star fractured his pelvis, broke his right heel and shredded his legs in Conneticut two years ago after colliding with a deer.

He was still recuperating when director Kathryn Bigelow invited him to squash his 6ft 4in frame into a confined submarine.

'I was still doing therapy during lunchtimes - I had a guy coming in to work on my feet - but I was almost back to full strength,' reveals the star of Rob Roy and The Phantom Menace.

'I was probably 97 per cent well and fortunately I haven't been left with any lasting injuries, although I have got a bunch of hardware in my body which makes me look like Boris Karloff under x-ray.'

He says he was drawn to the script because of the way it 'acknowledged the former enemy'.

'It didn't show the Russians as bad guys but showed the heroism of this extraordinary act.'

During production the Russians were hit by another submarine tragedy when the Kursk nuclear submarine sank during exercises in August 2000 with the loss of 118 men.

The actors found themselves profoundly moved by this event and shared in the Russians' grief as, together with some of the survivors of K19, they visited a church in St Petersburg which is popular with submariners - many of whom are based in the city.

'We saw the plot of ground in the cemetery that had been set aside for however many bodies they were able to bring up.

'The submarine was still at the bottom of the ocean at that time but they had photographs of some of the deceased and they were just like nine-year-olds, all these young fresh faces.

'It was incredibly moving and made us all the more committed to telling this story.'

Although both the captains of K19 were dead there were still a number of men who had been on board with them and were able to help Harrison and Liam flesh out their performances with memories of them.

'I think we met with about ten survivors. Some of them were in their military uniforms, although they were a little frayed around the edges.

'I had read books about Russian history and Russian warfare but I am an instinctive actor and to just be in a room with these men and see the nobility and pride and love they had for one another. . . I was very moved by it.

'What I love about this film is that it reminds us of the power of nuclear weapons and how we have the capability to destroy the planet many times over.

'In 1961 there was not a great deal known about the effects of radioactivity so I think this puts a human face to the potential of that destruction.'

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Liam Neeson recovered from a bike crash to take his role on the submarine
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 26, 2002
Words:519
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