12 Things You May Not Know About Certified Badass Liam Neeson140
By Ariel Nishli
Ask a stranger to do an impression of Liam Neeson and they’ll likely take on a grave intensity before telling you that if you don’t let their daughter go, they will look for you, they will find you, and they will kill you. It’s no surprise your new friend’s go-to line is the respective iconic scene from “Taken,” the film that solidified Neeson’s persona as a leading action star.
In a nod to the wildly successful film, KoldCast TV’s action-packed, seat-of-your-pants series “The Division” features Andrew Bowen playing the role of Nick Trever, a personal protection professional whose son is kidnapped shortly after his wife dies. In order to save his son, Trever must kidnap a U.S. Senator. True fans know “Taken” was but the pinnacle of Liam Neeson’s longtime calling as a leading man’s man. In honor of our favorite Irish actor’s burgeoning career as an action hero, here are 12 lesser-known reasons why the star is a certified badass, both on and off the screen.
The Division – Taken
His Stint as a Boxer
Liam took up boxing lessons at age nine at the All Saints Youth Club in Northern Ireland. He stuck with it for seven years, ultimately winning the Ulster Amateur Boxing Championship. Neeson experienced memory loss after being knocked around one too many times during his last bout when he was sixteen. This experience helped Neeson in his role as a respected doctor suffering from amnesia in his 2011 film “Unknown.” The real-life memory loss made him quit professional boxing, but he did win that last fight.
A Brief Career in Beer
Before Neeson got behind a stage curtain to start an acting career, he worked at his hometown’s Guinness Brewery behind the wheel of a forklift. His mentor, who “could make a forklift truck speak” according to Liam, asked him what he wanted to do in life, to which he confessed “Actually, I want to be an actor.” And he did, of course, become one – after moonlighting as a truck driver. In the meantime, Neeson enjoyed the job’s perks: all the Guinness he could handle. Off his father’s advice, he never touched spirits.
Dating The Dame
After playing the dimwitted Lenny in a stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” Neeson was discovered by director Neil Boorman who would cast him opposite Helen Mirren in the 1980 film “Excalibur.” Liam was shocked and delighted to hear that Helen, who at the time was a rising star entrenched in British high society, had a crush on him. Rumor had it she mimicked the walk of any man she had her eye on. One night at a pub Neeson noticed her impersonating his exaggerated gait. They moved in together and began a relationship which lasted several years.
He played Jesus!
Liam’s first starring film role came in the little known 1979 adaptation of “Pilgrim’s Progress,” directed by Ken Anderson. Liam wore a few hats for this low-budget Christian allegory. He played the titular character Pilgrim, who travels from “The Land of Destruction,” i.e., his depressing hometown, to “The Celestial City,” you guessed it – Heaven. Along the way Liam runs into Jesus aka a very crucified Liam Neeson. The actor would go on to voice Aslan, a Christ-like lion character from the famed “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise.
He’s Dark, man.
In 1990, Neeson secured the lead part as an action hero in Sam Raimi’s first studio film, “Darkman,” an homage to the horror and detective films of the 1930’s a la “The Shadow” or “Batman.” In “Darkman” Liam played a scientist left for dead by mobsters who attack his lab. He emerges alive but horribly disfigured and slightly insane. In a haunting performance, Liam seeks vengeance as a masked vigilante. A cult following for Neeson was born, two straight-to-DVD sequels were released, and the up and coming actor was thrust into the public eye.
An Oddly Intimidating Van Morrison Cover
Yes, your eye’s doth not deceive you. In 1994, Liam signed up to recite – not sing – a chilling, yet mesmerizing rendition of Van Morrison’s song “Coney Island” for a tribute album to the singer-songwriter. Morrison, who also hails from Northern Ireland, was so enthralled with Liam’s poetic license that he later released his cover of the original single.
Who Else Could Train Batman?
Following visionary director Christopher Nolan’s decision to tap Neeson to play R’as al Ghul in his groundbreaking “Batman Begins,” IGN moved al Ghul up to #7 on their list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains of All Time. R’as, of course, is the international assassin who trains a young Bruce Wayne to become Batman. His ultimate goal is a world in perfect environmental balance, which he believes can only be achieved by a mass human extermination. So much for going green… Neeson reprises his role in the much-anticipated threequel to the revamped franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
A Transformative Performance
For the 99.8% of us who caught Michael Bay’s 2007 film “Transformers” but missed his commentary on the DVD release, here’s a fun fact: the Director instructed his animators to draw inspiration from none other than Liam Neeson in creating the body language for head honcho Autobot, Optimus Prime. Who knew that a swordfight against Tim Roth in “Rob Roy” would inform a 3D robot battle over a decade later?
Back in November 2011, Liam starred in a comedy sketch alongside Ricky Gervais in which he played himself trying to break into comedic acting. He comes into Ricky’s office with a list of ideas and insists they act out an improvised scene. “I’m always making lists,” he explains. That’s why Spielberg picked him to play Oskar Schindler. Fueled by Liam’s deadpan humor, the bit creates tension thick enough to break a chainsaw.
I Love It When a Cast Comes Together
Hand-picked by 20th Century Fox to play Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith, Liam did not disappoint as the cigar-smoking leader of the A-Team in the film version of the classic TV series. At the onset of the movie, Hannibal is held captive in a corrupt Mexican prison, but of course breaks out and gathers his team together, only to be imprisoned once again. In another daring escape he, Bradley Cooper, et al., parachute out of a nose diving aircraft – in a tank! May not be exactly what he meant by his catchphrase, “I love it when a plan comes together!”, but it worked nonetheless.
Release the Sequel!
If you can ignore the onslaught of horrific reviews of the shabbily 3D-reconfigured “Clash of the Titans” released in 2010, you’ll find a goosebump-inducing performance by our man as the ubiquitous God of Thunder, Zeus. Irrespective of an incoherent script, Neeson had a lot of fun with this film, which he called “kick-ass.” His oft-repeated line, “Release the Kraken!” now rivals kitties as a staple caption for silly pictures on Internet procrastination sites.
Move Over, Wolverine
Liam’s strength as an action star is buttressed by his latest movie “The Grey,” released on January 27, 2012. In the film, he must fight-off a pack of hungry wolves after being stranded in the Alaskan Tundra alongside a group of men armed with nothing but their wits. Liam channels wolverine on the canines when he tapes a few broken mini liquor bottles from the crashed plane to his hands and goes into slash mode.
The Division – Genesis
Ariel Nishli has a big apple in his heart but moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry after graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2007. He started in the motion picture literary department at ICM before moving on to feature film development at Parkes MacDonald Productions. Ariel’s wardrobe has steadily devolved from designer suits to worn out slippers, as he now focuses on screenwriting and freelance writing.