He has a very particular set of skills; he will find you and he will hunt you down…well, maybe not today (June 7), as the gravelly voiced Irishman turns 64. Here are 10 facts you may or may not know about the man himself.
1. Bonding Experience
After a few years hiatus, James Bond returned to our screens with the spectacular GoldenEye in 2005. We all know that Pierce Brosnan nabbed the role, but both Mel Gibson and Neeson were considered first. For England, James!
2. Well That Bites
Neeson actively sought the role of Van Helsing in 1992’s Dracula. He was rumoured to be offered the part, but when Anthony Hopkins also showed an interest, the studios went with him instead. This wasn’t his first foray in to the world of vamps; way back in 1987, he was tipped to play Count Dracula in cult-classic, The Monster Squad; instead the role went to Duncan Regehr.
3. ‘Star’ Struck
As for his role as mentor Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace, Neeson was so keen to play the part he didn’t even bother reading the screenplay. These days he isn’t quite as complimentary of the series, but still wants to return…somehow. He did voice the character for three episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but is gunning for a full cinematic return. He told :
I don’t know [how he would return], unless you went back in time or he becomes a hologram or something. He’s a Jedi, anything could happen. It’s Star Wars world!
4. He Dated The Queen (Sort Of)
During the 1980s, Neeson shared a brief romance (and a flat) with The Queen actress, Helen Mirren. Their romance began on the set of his first film, Excalibur, and clearly had an impact on him – he once told :
Oh, my God. Can you imagine riding horses in shiny suits of armor, having sword fights and stuff, and you’re falling in love with Helen Mirren? It doesn’t get any better than that.
5. A Giant Problem
Neeson says that his most embarrassing moment was when auditioning for the role of giant Fezzik in Princess Bride. Neeson stands at ‘only’ six-foot-four, so the role went to Andre the Giant. During the audition, Director Rob Reiner was said to have a look of disgust on his face at Neeson’s height.
6. Shining Star
Impressed with Neeson’s performance as a Nazi officer in 1992’s Shining Through, Steven Spielberg cast the actor as the titular Oskar Schindler in the following year’s Schindler’s List – a huge role for Neeson. The film is still ranked #3 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time.
7. A Head For Heights
So, Mr. Tough Guy eh?!? It turns out that Neeson is a clinical acrophobic, once telling Jay Leno “I get dizzy on a thick carpet.” We can’t see his Taken counterpart, Bryan Mills, being quite so afraid of heights!
8. A Tragic Love Story
Neeson was married to actress Natasha Richardson in 1994, and they had two sons together. The two met whilst she was starring in Anna Christie on Broadway in 1993. Sadly in 2009, Richardson died from severe head injuries she sustained during a ski accident in Quebec. Neeson ran to his wife’s side, which delayed production on the film Chloe. A few days after Richardson’s death, Neeson returned to the set and shot the remainder of his scenes in two days.
9. Don’t Pick A Fight!
At a younger age, Neeson moonlighted as a boxer from the ages of 9-17. Muhammad Ali was his childhood hero and apparently his favourite person he has ever met. Neeson told he met the boxer in the Bahamas, just before Ali’s last fight in 1981. Ali was going up against Trevor Berbick and Neeson reportedly said:
Not knowing what to say and with my knees shaking, I said “Muhammad, I love you”…He gave me a hug and then signed an autograph for my father.
10. Going For Gold!
It isn’t only Leonardo DiCaprio who struggles with the Oscars. For years, Neeson was reported to be playing the lead role in Spielberg’s Lincoln. Neeson hadn’t (and still hasn’t) won an Academy Award, but hopes were high for Lincoln. Due to delays, the role eventually went to Daniel Day-Lewis, who won his third Oscar for the part. Liam Neeson is still yet to win an Academy Award, despite being nominated three times! Speak to Leo, sure he has some words of advice.