Tough Love

26th January 2018

He may be humble, jocular and breezy, but Liam Neeson isn’t afraid to talk about the big stuff, like his expiry date as an action star, his desire to avoid a beating, weight loss, and his eldest son’s new career on the silver screen.

Karen Anne Overton tells us more…

While he’s undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s biggest draws, it’s nice to see Liam Neeson has remained as humble as ever. Despite a phenomenally successful four-decade commitment to the big screen, the 65-year-old Irishman still feels like an imposter… which is always quite refreshing.

“I still can’t quite understand how lucky I am to have a complete stranger, someone I’ve never met, send me a script and say, I would very much like to have you part of this movie,” he says modestly. “I can never get over that.”

Such is the Neeson appeal, filmmakers like Scorsese, Spielberg and Lucas have been clamouring to work with the towering icon over the years. And thanks to his late arrival as one of the industry’s leading action stars – a result of the ridiculously profitable Taken series – the Irishman remains ever-present and ever-relevant, with five new movies alone coming out in the next 12 months, including ‘shoot’em up’ blockbuster The Commuter (released this month) and Hard Powder.

That’s not to say Liam is just about the brawn these days. Scorsese’s recent Silence certainly proved the actor keenly seeks out the cerebral scripts, and last year’s late contender Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down The White House, is no exception. Still, every action hero has to call it a day at some point, and Neeson seems to delight in teasing fans with off-the-cuff remarks that he’s close to hanging up his AK-47, only to return triumphant in some visceral explosion of ultra-violence.

“I’m like a kid in a candy store on these movies,” he says, revealing that perfect smile. “Working with stunt guys, throwing punches and all that great stuff – I love it. And they keep asking me to do it, so where is the logic in bowing out now? I get a buzz from these movies. They speak to my 14-year-old child within!”

So we can confirm that Neeson is not in fact giving up the high-octane stuff? “I’m not, you’re right; but I’ll always carry on making some joke about it. Of course, it depends on my mood, but I’m not throwing in the towel in just yet,” he laughs. “And maybe I can keep going until I’m 70!

But all jokes aside, I’m going to have to stop at some point when the knees are going to go out from under me, and it’ll all come crashing down. Now the question is, do I wait until that day, or bow out with some grace and whatever dignity I have left?”

Having had such a spectacular career, one wouldn’t blame the charming star if he wanted to take it easy and work on some light-hearted comedy or contemplative, indie flick. But Neeson still relishes the challenging role, and his recent portrayal of Cristóvão Ferreira – a Portuguese Catholic priest and Jesuit missionary who infamously committed apostasy after being tortured in the anti-Christian purges of Japan in Silence – required the kind of gruelling weight-loss regime that even burgeoning actors would baulk at.

“When you’re following a strict programme like that, it quietens the mind and zeroes your line of sight, and when you’re working on a Scorsese script that’s not such a bad thing. But I don’t know if I would seek that out again... it wasn’t easy,” he confesses.

Toned, slender and tanned, Neeson is still every inch the Hollywood icon. Having always been a keen boxer, he says he still relishes punching sessions in the gym, but no longer spars, explaining with a chuckle: “I don’t want to get injured. There are too many guys who take it too far, maybe because they can say ‘guess who I hurt today’.”

In his private life, Neeson pursues neither fame nor drama. Living in Upstate New York, he leads a quiet life, enjoying fly fishing, and spending time with his has two sons, Michael, 22, and Danny, 21, from his marriage to the late Natasha Richardson.

Understandably protective of his brood, the actor admits to feeling a degree of apprehension when his eldest son declared he wanted to follow in his father’s mighty footsteps. “I always said to him when this landed on the table, ‘are you content with a constant burden of rejection and criticism? Because that’s what you’re getting yourself into’. He says, ‘I’m okay with that’. What more can I say? I said my piece, it’s not my decision,” he explains.

Given that his most famous role is playing the toughest, coolest, bravest dad ever, it’s easy to imagine Neeson taking his paternal responsibilities seriously… which brings us round to the burning question: will there be a Taken 4?

“Who are they going to take this time? My second cousin? My dog? My accountant? My grandchild? We’re running out of options here,” he laughs, before adding, “Let me pop the teeth back in, alright, and then we’ll see…”

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