- Liam John Neeson
June 07, 1952 (age 68)
- Actor, Voice Actor
- Natasha Richardson
- Katherine Kitty Brown, Bernard Neeson
Liam John Neeson, OBE (born 7 June 1952) is an Irish actor who rose to prominence with his acclaimed starring role in Steven Spielberg's 1993 Oscar winner Schindler's List. He has since starred in a number of other successful films, including Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Taken, Taken 2, Michael Collins, Les Misérables, Batman Begins, Kinsey, Clash of the Titans, and The Chronicles of Narnia series. He has been nominated for a number of awards including an Academy Award for Best Actor, a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and three Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.
Empire magazine ranked Neeson among both the "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" and "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time."
Liam Neeson was born in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the son of Katherine "Kitty" Neeson (née Brown), a cook, and Bernard "Barney" Neeson, a caretaker at the Ballymena Boys All Saints Primary School. He was raised Roman Catholic and was named Liam after the local priest. The third of four siblings, he has three sisters: Elizabeth, Bernadette, and Rosaline. At age nine, Neeson began boxing lessons at the All Saints Youth Club, and later became Ulster's amateur senior boxing champion. Neeson first stepped on stage at age 11. His English teacher offered him the lead role in a school play, and he accepted because the girl he was attracted to was starring in it. 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 minister Ian Paisley, whose church Neeson would sneak into. Neeson has said of Paisley: "He had a magnificent presence and it was incredible to watch him just Bible-thumping away... it was acting, but it was also great acting and stirring too." In 1971, Neeson was enrolled as a physics and computer science student at Queen's University Belfast, Northern Ireland, before leaving to work for the Guinness Brewery. Also at Queens, he discovered a talent for football and was spotted by Seán Thomas at Bohemian F.C. There was a club trial in Dublin and Neeson played one game as a substitute against Shamrock Rovers, but he was not offered a contract.
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 for two years in Newcastle, County Down, before again returning to his hometown. 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. Neeson moved to Dublin in 1978 after he was offered a part in Ron Hutchinson's Says I, Says He, a drama about The Troubles, at the Project Arts Centre.
In 1980, filmmaker John Boorman saw him on stage as Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men and offered him the part of Sir Gawain in the Arthurian film, Excalibur. After Excalibur, Neeson moved to London, where he continued working on stage, in small budget films and in television. 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; 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.
In 1987, Neeson moved to Hollywood to star in more high-profile roles. That year, he starred alongside Cher and Dennis Quaid in Suspect in a role that brought him critical acclaim. In 1990, he followed this with a starring role in Darkman. Although the film was successful, Neeson's subsequent years would not bring 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.
Neeson lived with actress Helen Mirren during the early 1980s. They had met while working on Excalibur (1981). Interviewed by James Lipton for Inside the Actors Studio, Neeson said Mirren was instrumental in his getting an agent.
Neeson met his future wife, actress Natasha Richardson, while performing in a revival of the play Anna Christie on Broadway in 1993. They married on 3 July 1994. In August 2004, Neeson and his wife purchased an estate in Millbrook, New York. On 18 March 2009, Richardson died when she suffered a severe head injury in a skiing accident at the Mont Tremblant Resort, north of Montreal. She and Neeson had two sons together, Micheál (born 1995) and Daniel (born 1996). His nephew Ronan Sexton (son of his sister Bernadette) received a serious head injury after falling from a telephone box in Brighton in June 2014.
A heavy smoker earlier in his career, Neeson quit smoking in 2003, while working on Love Actually, this can be seen because in some scenes he has a toothpick in his mouth, his method for quitting. 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 character) in the film due to being an ex-smoker, but agreed to keep that personality trait of Hannibal intact for the film. In August 2009, Neeson stated on ABC's Good Morning America that he had been naturalised as a United States citizen. Neeson is a fan of Liverpool FC. and also Crystal Palace F.C.. According to former Crystal Palace chairman Simon Jordan's autobiography, Neeson asked for tickets explaining that a friend introduced him to the club when he moved from Ireland to London early in his career. In March 2011, he was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.