Liam Neeson

William John "Liam" Neeson OBE (born June 7, 1952) is an Irish actor. He is arguably best known for his role as Oskar Schindler in the 1993 film Schindler's List, and has since been involved in several other popular films, including Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, Kingdom of Heaven, Batman Begins, Rob Roy, The Chronicles of Narnia and Taken . He has also continued to play real-life characters, including Michael Collins and Alfred Kinsey and is also set to play President Abraham Lincoln in a biographical film directed by Steven Spielberg.


Early life

Neeson was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the son of Katherine "Kitty" (née Brown), a cook, and Barnard Neeson, a caretaker at the local Catholic boy's primary school. He was called Liam, the Irish equivalent to William, after the local priest. He was the third child in the family and the only boy among four siblings; his sisters are Elizabeth, Bernadette and Rosaline. At age nine, Neeson began boxing lessons at the All Saints Youth Club. It was at age eleven that Neeson first stepped on stage. His English teacher gave him the lead role in a school play, which he accepted because the girl he fancied would be starring. From then on, he kept acting in school productions for the following years. His interest in acting and decision to become an actor was also influenced by 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. And his Baptisms skills are second to none.

Still boxing at sixteen, he had been Youth Heavyweight Champion of Ireland for three consecutive years, aided by his height.


While at University, Neeson's abilities as a talented footballer emerged which resulted in him being spotted by Bohemian FC manager Seán Thomas. Neeson travelled to Dublin for a trial with the club, and featured briefly when he came on as a substitute in a game against Shamrock Rovers, replacing Tony O'Connell. Neeson was not offered a contract at the club and that remained his only performance in professional football.

After leaving university, Neeson returned to Ballymena and worked in a variety of small jobs, from fork-lift operator at Guinness to truck driver. He also worked at a teacher-training college in Newcastle for two years before again returning to his hometown. Neeson would get his first film experience in 1973, playing Jesus Christ in the religious film, Pilgrim's Progress directed by Ken Anderson. After a bet from co-workers at the architects' office where he worked, Neeson applied for an audition at the Lyric Players' Theatre in Belfast. After two years there, Neeson moved to Dublin and joined the Abbey Theatre in 1977. In 1980, film-maker 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 movie, Excalibur. After Excalibur, Neeson moved to London, where he continued working on stage, small budget movies and TV series. He lived with the actress Helen Mirren at this time, whom he met working on Excalibur. Between 1982 and 1987, Neeson starred in five films; mostly notably alongside Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins in 1984's The Bounty.

In 1987, Neeson made a conscious decision to move to Hollywood in order to star in high-profile roles. That year, he starred alongside Cher and Dennis Quaid in crime thriller, Suspect. The role would bring Neeson critics' applause, but it was 1990's Darkman that would bring his name to the public attention. Although the film gained success, 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.) Director Steven Spielberg, impressed by his performance, offered him the coveted role of Oskar Schindler, in the upcoming film about The Holocaust, Schindler's List. His critically acclaimed performance later earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor; 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 Globes nomination and a win for Best Starring Role at the Venice Film Festival. Neeson went onto star as Jean Valjean in the 1998 adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables and in The Haunting as Dr. David Marrow.

Star Wars

In 1999, Neeson took on the role as Obi-Wan Kenobi's mentor, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, in George Lucas' much anticipated Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. His voice would later be used in Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Neeson was to appear in the third prequel, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith as a Force Ghost, but a motorcycle accident prevented this and instead the character was mentioned only. Due to his height (6 ftin/193 cm), Neeson cost George Lucas an additional $150,000 in set design on The Phantom Menace . Also, Nelson reprised his role as Qui-Gon Jinn in a cameo apperance in Star Wars: Clone Wars.


Liam Nelson is also best known for his roles as both Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins. He later went on to reprise his role as Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul in the 2005 adaption of the film.


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, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis). He also played a recently widowed writer in Richard Curtis' ensemble comedy Love Actually (2003). 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 stoner (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 stereotype, Neeson did play a stereotypically Irish man named Lorken McArdle in the home makeover show parody "You Call This A House, Do Ya? In 2005, Neeson could be seen playing Godfrey of Ibelin, in Ridley Scott's epic adventure Kingdom of Heaven, 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. 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. A year later, he narrated the documentary Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity.

In 2007, Neeson starred in the American Civil War epic Seraphim Falls alongside Pierce Brosnan and Anjelica Huston. He is also set to star as Abraham Lincoln in a film directed by Steven Spielberg. In preparation for the role, Neeson visited Washington, D.C. and read Lincoln's personal letters. He also visited Ford's Theatre, where the President was shot. He again gave his voice to Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008). Neeson's voice will also be featured in the video game, Fallout 3 as the main character's father. 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".

As of May 2008, Neeson is filming the role of 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.

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

Personal life

Since July 3, 1994, Neeson has been married to actress Natasha Richardson, with whom he co-starred in Nell. She is a daughter of director Tony Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave and thus a member of the theatrical Redgrave family; her sister is Joely Richardson. Ironically enough, his first movie 'Excalibur' also starred Natasha's uncle (and Vanessa's brother) Corin Redgrave.

They have two sons, Micheál Richard Antonio (born June 22, 1995) and Daniel Jack (born August 28, 1996). The family home is in exurban Millbrook, New York. Neeson turned down the 'Freedom of the town of Ballymena' offered to him by Ballymena Borough Council, because of objections made by members of the Democratic Unionist Party about his comments that he had felt like a 'second-class citizen' growing up as a Roman Catholic in the town. Neeson continues to practise the Roman Catholic religion and has raised his children Roman Catholic.

Ironically, despite the Democratic Unionist Party's objections to him, proof that Neeson was not anti-British came when he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in her 1999 New Year's Honours List. The American Ireland Fund honored 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
1973 Pilgrim's Progress Evangelist
1981 Excalibur Gawain
1982 Merlin and the Sword (aka Arthur the King) Grak
1983 Krull Kegan
1984 The Bounty Charles Churchill
Ellis Island Kevin Murray
1986 The Mission Fielding
Lamb Michael Lamb
1987 Suspect Carl Anderson
A Prayer for the Dying Liam Docherty
1988 Satisfaction Martin Falcon
High Spirits Martin Brogan
The Dead Pool Peter Swan
The Good Mother Leo Cutter
1989 Next of Kin Briar Gates
1990 Darkman Peyton Westlake/Darkman
The Big Man Danny Scoular
1991 Under Suspicion Tony Aaron
1992 Husbands and Wives Michael Gates
Leap of Faith Will
1993 Ethan Frome Ethan Frome
Schindler's List Oskar Schindler
1994 Nell Dr. Jerome 'Jerry' Lovell
1995 Rob Roy Robert Roy MacGregor
1996 Michael Collins Michael Collins
Before and After Ben Ryan
1998 Les Misérables Jean Valjean
Everest Narrator
1999 The Haunting Dr. David Marrow
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace Qui-Gon Jinn
2000 Gun Shy Charlie Mayo
2001 Journey into Amazing Caves Narrator
2002 The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition Narrator
K-19: The Widowmaker Mikhail Polenin
Gangs of New York 'Priest' Vallon
2003 Love Actually Daniel
Coral Reef Adventure Narrator
2004 Kinsey Alfred Kinsey
2005 ''The Simpsons Father Sean (voice)
2005 Kingdom of Heaven Godfrey of Ibelin
Batman Begins Henri Ducard / Ra's al Ghul
Breakfast on Pluto Father Bernard
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Aslan (voice)
2007 Seraphim Falls Carver
The Birth of Christ Narrator
2008 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Aslan (voice)
Taken Bryan
The Other Man Peter
Five Minutes of Heaven Adult Alistair Little
2010 Lincoln Abraham Lincoln
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Aslan (voice)


External links

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