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Born: June 7, 1952 Ballymena, Northern Ireland, UK
Liam Neeson received an Oscar® nomination for his performance in Schindler’s List. He’s also a hard-working actor who has appeared in over 40 films. None of that holds a candle to the attention he received for his role in the highly anticipated Star Wars prequel, Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.
Born in Northern Ireland, Liam’s knack for acting led him to join Belfast’s Lyric Players’ Theatre in 1976. He moved to Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and was discovered there by director John Boorman, who cast him as Gawain in 1981’s Excalibur. His movie career launched, Liam began to appear in a number of British and American productions, including The Bounty, The Lamb and The Mission.
More roles and great co-stars followed: Cher in Suspect, Diane Keaton in The Good Mother, and Clint Eastwood in The Dead Pool. He played the protagonist in Sam Raimi’s Darkman and a Nazi opposite Melanie Griffith in Shining Through. He received his call from Woody Allen and starred opposite Judy Davis and Mia Farrow in the director’s Husbands and Wives.
Before that, in 1984, he made his American TV debut in the mini-series Ellis Island and played an IRA operative on Miami Vice.
The 1992 Broadway revival of Anna Christie was good for Liam in two ways. First, Steven Spielberg was so impressed by his performance that he offered him the lead in his Holocast film Schindler’s List, a role that would land him an Oscar® nomination. Secondly, his co-star in the play was Natasha Richardson, who he would wed in 1994. A huge starring role and a beautiful wife now earned him complete stardom, with all its attendant attention and gossip.
Neeson followed his work in Schindler’s List with Nell, co-starring his wife and Jodie Foster. He then went on to Rob Roy, which received rave reviews but was hurt at the box office by the year’s other big period film, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. That was followed with the biopic Michael Collins and the Meryl Streep film Before and After.
In an interview that appeared in the June 1999 issue of Redbook, Neeson said he planned to retire from movie acting in 2000, though the theatre will still beckon him. In the interview he said, “Film is a director’s medium. We are basically puppets. Producers earn all the money, and you get the sense that they hate actors. The crews are treated like slaves. … I don’t think I can live with the inauthenticity of movies anymore. I don’t like watching them, especially my own stuff.” Of course, Hollywood is always a never say never environment. Days after this statement was released, Liam told reporters in New York that he wasn’t quitting and that he was just venting some anger and frustrations.
In 2002, Liam starred opposite Harrison Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker and joined Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz and John C. Reilly in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York.. The following year, he was part of the ensemble cast of Love Actually.
In 2004, he played the title character in Kinsey with Laura Linney. 2005 was really busy with roles in Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom, Batman Begins with Christian Bale and Michael Caine, Breakfast on Pluto with Cillian Murphy and voicing Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with James McAvoy and Tilda Swinton.
Liam worked with Pierce Brosnan on 2006’s Seraphim Falls and then worked on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The Other Man with Antonio Banderas, and Taken with Maggie Grace.
Sadly, Liam’s wife, Natasha, died after a ski accident at the Mont Tremblant ski resort on March 18th, 2009.