Liam Neeson is always looking to get out of his comfort zone


Man in charge: Neeson once again plays the role of Bryan Mills in Taken 3, which is the last film in the franchise. - REUTERS

After starring in successful action flicks, including the Taken franchise, the Irish actor hopes to star in a romance movie.

One  thing actor Liam Neeson hopes to do in the near future is to star in a really good romantic movie meant for people his age. The 62-year-old – in a meeting at London during the Taken 3 media tour – feels there is an audience for it.

“What’s out there for people, in the romantic genre, is just terrible. Let’s face it, these rom-coms – most of them – are not very good.

“I love to get my hands on a piece of material that, you know, has a real believable love story,” says Neeson, while fiddling with a toothpick that has been in his right hand since he walked into the room at The Mandarin Oriental.

Now, if anyone can change the mindset of viewers and film studios alike about anything, it’d be Neeson.

After all, the 1.93m-tall actor was way, way, past his prime when he took on the role of Bryan Mills in Taken (2008).

It wouldn’t even be presumptuous to say, he transformed the landscape of today’s action films.

Suddenly, it was all the rage to have actors in their 50s and 60s take down baddies on the big screen.

Would The Expendables (2010) have been made if it wasn’t for the success of Taken? Or Red (2010) for that matter?

Neeson admits he is indeed in an enviable position. “I am 62 years old, and they’re still sending me this stuff. That’s great.

“Today, I was reading on IMDB, and there on the biography of Charles Bronson, it said that in his long career, he finally got top-billing in a franchise with the Death Wish films at the age of 53. “Yeaaaah! I beat him. I’m 62!” he says, laughing, genuinely tickled by this little fact.

There is no denying that since Taken came out, Hollywood seems to have changed its view of this Northern Ireland native.

According to Neeson, he has gotten a lot of action-based scripts in which the age of the main character is altered. “Here’s Joe Schmo, aged 35. And 35 has been cancelled out, and 50 has been penned there. Here we go again.”

In the years since Taken, the thespian has acted in action films like The A-TeamUnknownThe GreyA Walk Among Tombstones and Non-Stop.

While the characters are written with similar traits, they are given an extra layer thanks to Neeson’s ever-reliable presence and stunning performance.

When Bryan Mills is in action mode, it’s better to stay away from him.

In person, Neeson is as imposing as he is on screen. His hands, especially, are noticeably big – well, one tends to look at his hands as he is constantly moving the toothpick with his right hand’s thumb and index finger and, from time to time, reaching for his green tumbler with his left hand.

But unlike his characters, who are menacing when provoked, Neeson has good manners (thanking journalists for coming to the interview) and is in a good mood (he made us feel welcomed).

He also doesn’t look his age; he appears younger and distinguished, even if the outfit is nothing more than a pair of jeans and polo T-shirt, complemented with a thick jacket and boots for the start of winter in London.

But like a man’s man, he says he hates shopping. “I do get dyslexia in shops. I really, really do (hate shopping). So I don’t do it. I don’t shop at all.

“I am very fortunate that there’s a guy called Giorgio Armani. Every time I leave the house to do a function, I call up New York Giorgio Armani and say, ‘Guys, I am doing a junket for two weeks.’

“The next day, they send a tailor, a rack of clothes to my house, I try this on, I try that on. Guy measures it. Four days later, the stuff comes back.

“Giorgio has been taking care of me since Schindler’s List. That’s 21 years ago!”

That 1993 film directed by Steven Spielberg, for which Neeson received an Oscar nomination, pretty much confirmed his leading man status, something that eluded him in Hollywood until the cult favourite Darkman (1990).

That was also the year when he worked with Natasha Richardson on a Broadway play titled Anna Christie, and then again in the film Nell (1994).

They got married in 1994, and had two sons together.

Unfortunately, Richardson passed away in 2009 due to a skiing accident. After her passing, Neeson decided to become an American citizen, having taken up permanent residency in upstate New York (where his wife was buried).

Despite his new citizenship, Neeson is proud of his Irish heritage.

There is still the accent (though slight, certain words – especially those containing the letter T – accentuate it) and he is thrilled to see that more and more productions are being filmed in his homeland (such as Game Of Thrones). “It’s like a hidden secret. It’s gorgeous there.”

It was also in Northern Ireland that he started out as an amateur boxer – resulting in getting his nose broken at the age of 15 – a physical activity that he’s still fond of and does for films.

Taken 3 director, Olivier Megaton says: “He will always do the fight scenes. It’s hard, because he’s not a young man, but we found a way to have him do a lot of the stunts and not use his double all the time.

“But for some scenes, we have no choice but to use the stuntman. He often tells me, that he wants to do them because after months of training, he finds it boring to just sit and watch. And that is the cool thing about working with an actor like him.

“He is a good dramatic actor, and a good action star. I don’t think he was expecting the action star status as he was only trying to do something different with Taken.

“When it took off, he had to change his way of thinking, and accept that he’s an action hero.”

Neeson says that he has always taken on a role based on the script he gets, whatever the genre may be. “With Taken, I didn’t know it was going to be a franchise. None of us did.

“It was supposed to be just a one-off thriller that we shot in Paris.”

Even if Hollywood wants to pin him down as an action star, Neeson is not someone who lets others dictate his life.

Taken 3, for one, has come to the end of its line although he claims he has a few more (action movies) in the pipeline.

“I think after that, it’s like, ‘So long sucker!’” he says, chuckling (really!).

Taken 3 opens in cinemas nationwide today.

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