Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson
Liam Neeson

Neeson at the TIFF premiere of The Other Man, September 7, 2008
Born Liam John Neeson
7 June 1952 (1952-06-07) (age 59)
Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Residence Millbrook, New York
Nationality Irish
Citizenship American
Education Saint Patrick's College
Alma mater Queen's University Belfast
Occupation Actor
Years active 1973–present
Home town Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Spouse Natasha Richardson
(m. 1994–2009; deceased)
Children Michael (b.1995),
Daniel Jack (b.1996)
Parents Bernard Neeson,
Katherine Kitty (née Brown)
Relatives Vanessa Redgrave
Tony Richardson (deceased father-in-law)
Joely Richardson

Liam John Neeson,[1] OBE (born 7 June 1952)[2] is an Irish actor who has been nominated for an Oscar, a BAFTA and three Golden Globe Awards.

He has starred in a number of notable roles including Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List, Michael Collins in Michael Collins, Peyton Westlake in Darkman, Jean Valjean in Les Misérables, Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars (the film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and an episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey, Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises as well as the voice of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia film series. He has also starred in several other notable films, from major Hollywood studio releases (eg. Excalibur, The Dead Pool, Nell, Rob Roy, The Haunting, Love Actually, Kingdom of Heaven, Taken, Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, Unknown) to smaller arthouse films (eg. Deception, Breakfast on Pluto, Chloe).

He was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and educated at Saint Patrick's College, Ballymena Technical College and Queen's University Belfast. He moved to Dublin after university to further his acting career, joining the renowned Abbey Theatre. In the early 1990s, he moved again to the United States, where the wide acclaim for his performance in Schindler's List led to more high-profile work. He is widowed and lives in New York with his two sons.


Early life

Neeson was born June 7, 1952 in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and is the son of Katherine Kitty (née Brown), a cook, and Bernard "Barney" Neeson, a caretaker at the local Catholic boys' primary school (Ballymena Boys All Saints Primary School).[3] He was raised Roman Catholic[4][5][6] and was called Liam, Irish for William, after the local priest.[7] He was the third child in the family and the only boy among four siblings; his sisters are Elizabeth, Bernadette, and Rosaline.[8] At age nine, Neeson began boxing lessons at the All Saints Youth Club, and later became Ulster amateur senior boxing champion.[9] At age eleven, Neeson first stepped on stage. His English teacher gave him the lead role in a school play, which he accepted because the girl he was attracted to would be starring.[10] From then on, he kept acting in school productions for the following years.[11] His interest in acting and decision to become an actor was also influenced by minister Ian Paisley, whose church Neeson would sneak into. Neeson has said of Paisley that "He had a magnificent presence and it was incredible to watch this six foot-plus man just Bible-thumping away... It was acting but it was also great acting and stirring too."[12]

Neeson was enrolled in 1971 as a physics and computer science undergraduate student at Queen's University Belfast in Belfast, Northern Ireland, before leaving to work for Guinness.[13]

Liam found a talent for football while in University. He was spotted by Seán Thomas at Bohemian F.C.. There was a club trial in Dublin. He only played one game as a substitute against Shamrock Rovers and was not offered a contract to continue playing.[14]



After leaving university, Neeson returned to Ballymena where he worked in a variety of casual jobs, from a fork-lift operator at Guinness to a truck driver. He also attended teacher training college in Newcastle for two years before again returning to his home town. In 1976, Neeson joined the Lyric Players' Theatre in Belfast where he performed for two years. He got his first film experience in 1977, playing Jesus Christ and Evangelist in the religious film, Pilgrim's Progress directed by Ken Anderson. Neeson moved to Dublin in 1978 after he was offered a part in a production at the Project Arts Centre. The play was Ron Hutchinson's "Says I, Says He", a drama about The Troubles in Northern Ireland. Neeson acted in several other Project productions and joined the Abbey Theatre. In 1980, filmmaker John Boorman saw him on stage, acting as Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men, and offered him the part of Sir Gawain in the upcoming Arthurian film, Excalibur. After Excalibur, Neeson moved to London, where he continued working on stage, small budget films and television series. He lived with the actress Helen Mirren at this time, whom he met working on Excalibur.[15] Between 1982 and 1987, Neeson starred in five films; most notably alongside Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins in 1984's The Bounty and Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons in 1986's The Mission. He also starred as a guest actor in the third season of the television series Miami Vice in 1986.

In 1987, Neeson made a conscious decision to move to Hollywood in order to star in high-profile roles.[15] That year, he starred alongside Cher and Dennis Quaid in Suspect. The role brought Neeson critical applause, but it was 1990's Darkman that would bring his name to public attention. Although the film was successful, Neeson's following years would not give him the same recognition. In 1993, he joined Ellis Island co-star and future wife Natasha Richardson in the Broadway play Anna Christie. (They also worked together in Nell, released the following year.) He recited the Van Morrison song "Coney Island" on the 1994 Van Morrison tribute album, No Prima Donna: The Songs of Van Morrison. A single was also released with Neeson's version.

Director Steven Spielberg, impressed by his performance in Nell, offered him the coveted role of Oskar Schindler in the film about the Holocaust, Schindler's List.[16] His critically acclaimed performance later earned him a nomination for a Best Actor Oscar; however, the award went to Tom Hanks for his performance in Philadelphia. Neeson also garnered BAFTA and Golden Globes nominations for Schindler's List.

Schindler's List established Neeson as a widely sought-after leading actor. He later starred in period pieces Rob Roy (1995) and Michael Collins (1996), the latter earning him another Golden Globe nomination and a win for Best Starring Role at the Venice Film Festival. Neeson went on to star as Jean Valjean in the 1998 adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables and in The Haunting (1999) as Dr. David Marrow.

Star Wars

In 1999, Neeson starred as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, in director George Lucas' Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. As it was the first Star Wars film to be released in over sixteen years, it was surrounded by a large amount of anticipation from the media. Neeson's connection to the Star Wars films started in the Crown Bar, Belfast. Neeson stated to Ricki Lake, "I probably wouldn't have taken the role if it wasn't for the advice of Peter King in the Crown during a Lyric reunion." The Phantom Menace was an enormous box-office success and remains the most financially successful Star Wars film unadjusted for inflation.[17] Qui-Gon's voice, provided by Neeson, would later be heard during a brief scene in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002). Qui-Gon was supposed to make an appearance in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) as a Force Ghost, and Neeson had hinted at involvement.[18] However, he was ultimately unable to appear due to a motorcycle injury, and his character is only mentioned in the film.[19] In 2011, he reappeared as the voice of Qui-Gon in the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.


Neeson narrated the 2001 documentaries Journey Into Amazing Caves and The Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure. After being nominated for a Tony Award for his role opposite Laura Linney in The Crucible, Neeson teamed up with Harrison Ford in Kathryn Bigelow's submarine thriller K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) as Captain Mikhail Polenin and appeared in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (with Leonardo DiCaprio, Brendan Gleeson, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis). He also played a recently widowed writer in Richard Curtis' ensemble comedy Love Actually (2003).[20] His role as Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey again put Neeson up for nomination for a Golden Globe Award but he lost out to Leonardo DiCaprio for The Aviator. In 2004, Neeson hosted an episode of the NBC sketch show Saturday Night Live. He starred as a redneck trucker, Marlon Weaver, in an "Appalachian Emergency Room" sketch and a hippie in a one-off sketch about two stoners (the other played by Amy Poehler) who attempt to borrow a police dog in order to find their lost stash of marijuana. Despite vowing not to play any characters who were Irish stereotypes, Neeson did play a stereotypically Irish man named Lorken McArdle in the home makeover show parody "You Call This A House, Do Ya?"[21] In 2005, Neeson played Godfrey of Ibelin in Ridley Scott's epic adventure Kingdom of Heaven, Ra's al Ghul, one of the main villains in Batman Begins, and as Father Bernard in Neil Jordan's adaptation of Patrick McCabe's novel, Breakfast on Pluto. Also in 2005, he voiced the role of a kindly priest on The Simpsons, who converted Bart and Homer to Catholicism.[22] That same year, he gave his voice to the lion Aslan in the blockbuster fantasy film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.[23] A year later, he narrated the documentary Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity. Following a noticeable lull in his acting career, Neeson starred in the 2008 hit Taken, which brought his image back into the public eye and resulted in his casting in many more mainstraim Hollywood movies.

In 2007, Neeson starred in the American Civil War epic Seraphim Falls alongside Pierce Brosnan and Anjelica Huston.

Neeson's voice is featured in the video game Fallout 3 as the main character's father, James.[24] The executive producer of the game, Todd Howard, said "This role was written with Liam in mind, and provides the dramatic tone for the entire game".[25] Fallout 3, the third game in the Fallout series, has been extremely well received by critics and shipped 4.7 million copies by the end of 2008, the year it was released.[26]

In the director's commentary of the 2007 Transformers DVD, Michael Bay said that he had told the animators to seek inspiration from Liam Neeson in creating Optimus Prime's body language.

Neeson appeared as Alistair Little in the BBC Northern Ireland/Big Fish Films television drama Five Minutes of Heaven, which tells the true story of a young Protestant man convicted of murdering a Catholic boy during The Troubles.[27]

He starred in the action film Taken in 2008, which was a French film also starring Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace. It is based on a script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen and was directed by Pierre Morel. Neeson plays a retired Central Intelligence Agency operative from their elite Special Activities Division who sets about tracking down his teenage daughter after she is kidnapped for sexual slavery while traveling in Europe. Taken was a huge worldwide box office hit, grossing $223,882,658 worldwide and making almost $200,000,000 more than its initial budget. He again gave his voice to Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008).[28]

Neeson has wrapped filming the psychological thriller After.Life with Christina Ricci and Justin Long.[29] He also provided a voice for Hayao Miyazaki's anime film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, which received an August 2009 release.[30]

In 2010, Neeson played the Greek God Zeus in the remake of the 1981 film, Clash of the Titans. The film went on becoming a huge box office hit and grossing $475 million worldwide.[31]

Neeson also starred in the erotic thriller Chloe, theatrically released by Sony Pictures Classics on March 26, 2010. Chloe had enjoyed commercial success and became director Atom Egoyan's biggest moneymaker ever.[32] Later the same year, he played John "Hannibal" Smith in the spin-off movie from the TV series The A Team.[33][34]

In 2010, Neeson voiced the character Aslan again in the sequel The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. In late 2010, Neeson stated, "Aslan symbolises a Christlike figure, but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries"; this disappointed many fans of the series, who felt that he was "destroying the author's legacy to be politically correct".[35][36]

In 2011, Neeson starred in Unknown, a German British American co-production of a French book, it was filmed in Berlin in early 2010. It has been compared to Taken, which was set in Paris. Despite receiving mixed reviews from critics, the film enjoyed box office success in the United States. It was largely funded by Dark Castle entertainment with smaller amounts coming from the Berlin film agency.

He has played several characters based on real people, including Schindler, Collins, and Kinsey.

He was also set to reunite with director Steven Spielberg and star as Abraham Lincoln in the film based on the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin.[37][37] In preparation for the role, Neeson visited Washington, D.C., Springfield, Illinois where Lincoln lived prior to being elected, and read Lincoln's personal letters. He also visited Ford's Theatre, where the President was shot.[38] However in July 2010 Neeson said in an interview with GMTV “I’m not actually playing Lincoln now. I was attached to it for a while, but it’s now I’m past my sell-by date.”[39] He was later replaced in the role by two-time Academy Award winner, Daniel Day-Lewis.

Director Lee Daniels has confirmed that Neeson will play former U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson in Daniels' developing film Selma, which is about Martin Luther King, Jr., Johnson, and the civil rights marches.[40]

Neeson also starred as Ben Ryan in the drama Before and After alongside Meryl Streep. This film was about how a family dealt with the aftereffects of a murder their son was accused of committing.

It was announced in July 2010 that Neeson would guest-star on the new Showtime series The Big C.[41]

It was announced that Liam Neeson would reprise his role as Ra's Al Ghul for the film: The Dark Knight Rises. (The younger version of his character is played by Josh Pence.) He narrated the first trailer for the film that was released in July of 2011.

Personal life

Neeson was married to actress Natasha Richardson from 3 July 1994 until her death on 18 March 2009, when she suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident at the Mont Tremblant Resort, in Quebec. Richardson and Neeson had two sons: Michael and Daniel. Daniel attends Fordham Preporatory School in the Bronx, New York. He is in the graduating class of 2015. Neeson lives in Millbrook, New York. In August 2004 Neeson and his wife purchased an additional 16 acres next to their estate.[42][43]

A heavy smoker earlier in his career, Neeson has since quit smoking. When he took the role of Hannibal for the 2010 film adaptation of The A-Team, Neeson had reservations about smoking cigars (which is a signature trait of the Hannibal character) in the film due to being an ex-smoker, but agreed to keep that personality trait of Hannibal intact for the film.[44] In August 2009, Neeson stated on ABC's Good Morning America that he had been naturalized as a United States citizen.[45]

Neeson is a fan of Liverpool F.C.[46]

In March 2011, Neeson was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.[47]

Honours and awards

Neeson was offered the 'Freedom of the Town of Ballymena' by Ballymena Borough Council, but because of objections made by members of the Democratic Unionist Party regarding his comments that he had felt like a 'second-class citizen' growing up as a Catholic in the town, he declined the award, citing tensions. Neeson continues to practice the Catholic faith and has raised his children as Catholics. He has also expressed admiration for The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola.[48]

He was appointed as Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in her 1999 New Year's Honours List. The American Ireland Fund honoured Liam Neeson with their Performing Arts Award for the great distinction he has brought to Ireland at their 2008 Dinner Gala in New York.


Year Title Role Notes
1978 Pilgrim's Progress Evangelist and Jesus Christ
1979 Christiana Greatheart
1981 Excalibur Gawain
1982 Merlin and the Sword Grak alternate title Arthur the King
1983 Krull Kegan
1984 Bounty, TheThe Bounty Charles Churchill
1984 Ellis Island Kevin Murray Television miniseries
1985 Lamb Michael Lamb
1986 Mission, TheThe Mission Fielding
1986 Duet for One Totter
1987 Suspect Carl Anderson
1987 Prayer for the Dying, AA Prayer for the Dying Liam Docherty
1988 Satisfaction Martin Falcon
1988 High Spirits Martin Brogan
1988 Dead Pool, TheThe Dead Pool Peter Swan
1988 Good Mother, TheThe Good Mother Leo Cutter
1989 Next of Kin Briar Gates
1990 Darkman Peyton Westlake/Darkman Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actor
1990 Big Man, TheThe Big Man Danny Scoular
1991 Under Suspicion Tony Aaron
1992 Husbands and Wives Michael Gates
1992 Leap of Faith Will
1992 Shining Through Franz-Otto Dietrich
1993 Ethan Frome Ethan Frome
1993 Ruby Cairo Dr. Fergus Lamb released on video as Deception
1993 Schindler's List Oskar Schindler Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
1994 Nell Dr. Jerome 'Jerry' Lovell
1995 Rob Roy Robert Roy MacGregor
1996 Michael Collins Michael Collins Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Actor
Volpi Cup
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1996 Before and After Ben Ryan
1998 Misérables, LesLes Misérables Jean Valjean
1998 Everest Narrator
1999 Haunting, TheThe Haunting Dr. David Marrow
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Qui-Gon Jinn Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Actor
2000 Gun Shy Charlie Mayo
2000 Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition, TheThe Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition Narrator
2001 Journey into Amazing Caves Narrator
2002 K-19: The Widowmaker Mikhail Polenin
2002 Gangs of New York 'Priest' Vallon
2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Qui-Gon Jinn voice only, uncredited
2002 Evolution: What About God? Narrator
2003 Love Actually Daniel Nominated — Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
2003 Coral Reef Adventure Narrator
2004 Kinsey Alfred Kinsey Irish Film Awards – Best Actor Film
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Male
Nominated — London Film Critics' Circle Award for British Actor of the Year
Nominated — Satellite Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Nominated — Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor
2005 Simpsons, TheThe Simpsons Father Sean voice ("The Father, the Son, and the Holy Guest Star")
2005 Kingdom of Heaven Godfrey of Ibelin
2005 Batman Begins Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
2005 Breakfast on Pluto Father Liam
2005 Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Aslan voice
2006 Home Himself
2007 Seraphim Falls Carver
2007 Birth of Christ, TheThe Birth of Christ Narrator
2008 Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Aslan voice
2008 Other Man, TheThe Other Man Peter
2008 Fallout 3 James (Dad) Video game (voice)
2008 Taken Bryan Mills
2009 Five Minutes of Heaven Alistair Little Nominated — Irish Film & Television Award for Actor in a Lead Role (Television)[49]
2009 Ponyo Fujimoto voice (English dub; original Japanese version 2008)
2009 After.Life Eliot
2009 Chloe David
2010 Clash of the Titans Zeus
2010 Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity Narrator[50]
2010 A-Team, TheThe A-Team John "Hannibal" Smith
2010 Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Aslan voice
2010 Next Three Days, TheThe Next Three Days Damon Pennington
2010 Wildest Dream, TheThe Wildest Dream Narrator
2011 Unknown Dr. Martin Harris
2011 Star Wars: The Clone Wars Qui-Gon Jinn Special Guest Voice, Season Three episodes Overlords and Ghosts of Mortis
2011 Life's Too Short Himself Cameo appearance
2012 Grey, TheThe Grey Ottoway post-production
2012 Wrath of the Titans Zeus post-production
2012 Battleship Admiral Shane post-production
2012 Dark Knight Rises, TheThe Dark Knight Rises Ra's al Ghul filming
2012 Taken II Bryan Mills filming


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External links

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