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The War of the Worlds: Liam Neeson takes over Richard Burton role in sci-fi stage musical



In what the show’s creators claim will be a technological first, Liam Neeson’s full body hologram will interact with the live performers.
He will play journalist George Herbert, a role previously voiced by Richard Burton.
The musical is based on the 1978 album by Jeff Wayne, which was in turn inspired by HG Wells’s classic science-fiction novel about a Martian invasion of England.
Burton, who died in 1984, supplied the narration for the album and his voice was used for a holographic head in the musical production that began touring in 2006.
After a hiatus, the show will return in December 2012 with Neeson at the helm and new special effects, including a 100ft wide “CGI animation wall” and a Martian fighting machine that fires real flames at the audience.
Neeson said he had been a fan of the album for many years and was thrilled to be involved in the new production.
“I remember buying the tape, as it was then, in 1979 in Ireland, and I loved the music. I loved Richard Burton’s voice especially, and was very flattered that Jeff wanted me to do this,” he told a press conference in London.
He tried to banish Burton’s voice from his mind when he was doing the narration. “I had to get rid of it and just focus on the text. That would have been suicide, to just keep thinking of Richard.”
As for the technology: “I’m not a computer nerd at all so I knew nothing about this technological stuff, but it did sound very interesting. We shot it over three days in April.
“It was all done on ‘green screen’ which I’m very used to after Star Wars and Clash of the Titans and various films like that. It wasn’t terribly different from shooting a movie.”
The actor pointed out that he did not believe in aliens.
Wayne said that Neeson was his first choice for the role. He explained: “I had a list of one name of my ideal George Herbert, and it was him.
“To me, this is a living work and now we’ve made the decision to move on to what we call the ‘new generation’.
“Richard’s performance was 74 sequences, Liam’s is 90. Before, we had one holographic head that hovered over the stage; Liam is that but also a full body performing with the other live characters and appearing on a giant animation wall.
“This has given us some wonderful opportunities to open up storylines.”
Neeson recalled his one encounter with Burton, when the two men were filming a 1984 mini-series called Ellis Island.
He said: “I remember coming out of the make-up trailer one morning and he was standing, listening to this lady who was talking to him, with his arms behind his back and he looked incredibly fit. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that’s Richard Burton’.
“He had this kind of a halo around him. I didn’t want to go over, I wish I had. And two weeks after that he passed away.”

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