Cheat Sheet: Liam Neeson
Liam John Neeson
Date of Birth:
7th June 1952
Place of birth:
County Antrim, Northern Ireland
Acting, boxing, fork-lift truck driving, being in terrible things
Schindler’s List, Les Miserables, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Love Actually, Batman Begins, Taken, The Grey
What You Probably Already Know
I think it’s probably fair to say that we know Liam Neeson as the trustworthy face of Brit-Hollywood. His noble crags, his coarse but warming burr, the fact that he was only in a couple of minutes of The Next Three Days and at least had the decency to look guilty the entire time – if there’s one man who can be counted on to provide a chin-chuckingly honest portrayal of some windswept poignancy, it’s our man Liam. He got his big Hollywood break in the cult classic superhero flick Darkman (directed by Sam Raimi in 1990), where Liam plays an acid-burnt crime-fighter determined to keep the affections of the forever brilliant Frances McDormand. Raimi wrote and directed the project after failing to get the rights to either the Spiderman or Batman franchises, and the result was a damn good fun action flick that knocks the pants off Spiderman 3 .
Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t off the back of the blast-tastic Darkman that Spielberg offered Neeson the lead in Schindler’s List; that came after he watched him opposite Jodie Foster in 1994 psychological drama Nell. Approaching the actor after admiring his understated but powerful on-screen presence, he offered him the role of Oskar Schindler – the German businessman determined to save as many Jewish people as he could from the horrors of Auschwitz – and one Best Actor nomination later the world was clamouring for a piece of the Neeson. Since then he’s continued to dominate our cinema screens in a formidably diverse number of roles – from devastated super dad in Love Actually to Jedi mind-fighter in The Phantom Menace to actual wolf-murderer in The Grey, his ability to breeze easily from action star to drama huncher to romance crooner is one you don’t come across very often. And with five films out this year alone, it doesn’t much look like he’s planning on slowing down any time soon…
What You Might Not Know
He never would have started with this acting lark had it not been for some lass he fancied. Yep, our Liam (named after the local priest, doncha know) was actually far more interested in boxing as a young lad, becoming Ulster amateur senior boxing champion at one point, which we’re sure is much more impressive than it sounds. He ended up auditioning for a school play when he was eleven because he knew a girl he fancied was keen on the noble art, and found he enjoyed larking about and shouting a lot more than he first suspected. Still, that didn’t stop him from deciding to study Physics And Computer Science at Queen’s University Belfast, which he promptly gave up to work at the Guinness factory. MAKE A DECISION LIAM, WOULD YOU?
Leaping casually from career to career – forklift driver, teacher-in-training, trucker – Neeson eventually began acting with the Lyric Theatre players in Belfast and a few productions later was convinced to move to London to star in John Boormaker’s Excalibur with Helen Mirren. The two subsequently moved in together (who can blame him, the sly dog), and by all accounts he was mainly in charge of cooking fish and being annoyed. Unlike Mirren however, Neeson made a decision to move to leave London for Hollywood in 1987, sure that that was where the leading roles for him were. And, to be fair, he was totally right. And it looks like America still feels like home, as it’s where he currently raises his two sons Michael and Daniel. His lovely wife Natasha Richardson died in 2009 as a result of a skiing injury, but we don’t have many funny things to say about that so we’ll leave it there.
Liam Neeson quote
“And before we go on the air, the woman says to me, ‘I’m going to throw you a question, something like, “Mr. Neeson, if Star Wars is on one channel and Schindler’s List is on the other, which one do you watch?”‘ And oh, but that gets me started. I mean, I start to tell her, one represents six million people, six million lives, the other is just, just fantasy! But then my son steps in and — he’s so smart — says, ‘Excuse me, ma’am. Why don’t you say Star Wars on one channel and Taken on the other?’ That’s what made me happy. And I looked that way, because right before I went on, my son, he can see I’m still aggravated, so he just steps up to me and says, ‘Smile, Dad, smile.’ And that’s my bonny boy. His mother just shines through him at moments like that.”
What to say at a dinner party:
“A man who has managed to retain the respect of those most influential in the business of cinema-craft, and yet also one who continues to pull in mainstream audiences – there is certainly no denying that Liam Neeson will be remembered as one of the canniest, as well as genuinely loved, actors of his generation.”
What not to say at a dinner party:
“Shall we ask him to join us in the Alps?”
We forgive you Clash Of The Titans, Liam. We forgive you Clash, and Wrath, and we even forgive all that business with Jar Jar Binks. But please, we beg of you, no more working at Guinness factories. Trying to veer away from lazy Irish stereotypes is difficult enough for us as it is. Battleship is out tomorrow! We have to watch it because life isn’t fair!