Liam Neeson – Hollywood A lister from Ballymena

Liam Neeson. Photo copyright Karen Seto CC2

Liam Neeson is one of Northern Ireland’s most famous sons. Throughout a long and highly successful acting career he has starred in some of the most memorable movies of the last few decades.

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Irish actors

His acting style works in several different genres of film, from deeply moving historical dramas like Schindler’s List and Michael Collins to all out action films such as Taken and Clash of the Titans.

He has also starred in classic movies like Gangs of New York, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises.

Nominated for several prestigious awards

Neeson has received nominations for Best Actor at the Academy Awards, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes although he didn’t go on to win the awards.

Liam Neeson copyright Karen Seto cc2

However, he has claimed the Best Actor gong at several prestigious awards including the Irish Film Awards, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards, the Evening Standard British Film Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards and the London Film Critics Circle Award.

Started acting to impress a girl

Neeson was born in Ballymena, Co Antrim. As a youngster he was a keen boxer and became Ulster’s amateur senior boxing champion.

He also developed a love of acting when he was at school. His first role was in a school play when he was 11 years old. He had only signed up to take part in the play because he wanted to impress a girl who was starring in it but he carried on acting all throughout his time at school.

He studied physics and computer science at Queen’s University, Belfast and had planned to become a teacher before he decided to try to make a career in acting.

Neeson’s early film career

Neeson made appearances in a few films in the late 1970s and early 1980s including Pilgrim’s Progress and Excalibur. He then moved to London where he continued to find acting work on stage, TV and small budget films.

In 1984, he appeared in The Bounty, which also featured big name actors, Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Olivier and Daniel Day-Lewis. Two years later he appeared with Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons in The Mission.

In 1987, he decided to move to Hollywood as he felt it was the right stage of his career to take on more high profile roles. Over the next few years he starred in several films including, Suspect, A Prayer for the Dying, The Dead Pool and The Good Mother.

First High Profile acting award nomination

Neeson received his first high profile acting award nomination in 1990 when he was nominated by the Saturn Awards for Best Actor for his role in the superhero action movie, Darkman.

His career moved up to the next level in the 1990s. He played two of his most iconic roles, Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, and Michael Collins in the film, Michael Collins.

He received numerous Best Actor award nominations for his performances in these films and while he missed out on the big awards such as the Oscars, BAFTAs and Golden Globes, he cemented his status as a Hollywood A list star.

Neeson starred in Star Wars

During the 1990s Neeson also appeared in Husbands and Wives, Rob Roy and Les Miserables. In 1999, he played the lead role in one of the most eagerly awaited movies of all time – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. He reprised his role of Qui-Gon Jinn three years later in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

He starred in several successful movies during the 2000s including Gangs of New York, Love Actually, Kinsey, Batman Begins and Taken. He also provided the voice of the character Aslan in three Chronicles of Narnia movies; The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2005, Prince Caspian in 2008 and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 2010.

Neeson continued to be in high demand in the 2010s. He starred in Clash of the Titans, The A Team, The Dark Knight Rises, The Grey and Taken 2.

In 2016, he appeared in the critically acclaimed historical drama Silence, directed by Martin Scorsese.