"I never did think of myself as handsome, terribly attractive yes, but not handsome." Liam Neeson
British actor Liam Neeson is widely recognized with his Best Actor Academy Award-nominated role as Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s epic Schindler's List (1993). He continued to play major roles in such films as Nell (1994), Rob Roy (1995), Michael Collins (1996), Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999), Kinsey (2004), Kingdom of Heaven, Batman Begins and Breakfast on Pluto (all three in 2005). Neeson is currently on set completing his upcoming films: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (voice), The White Rose, Seraphim Falls, and an Untitled Steven Spielberg/Abraham Lincoln Project.
The gifted actor also received praise on stage. He was nominated for Broadway's Best Actor Tony Award (Play) two times, in 1993 for his performance in a revival of Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie" and in 2002 for a revival of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible." Neeson was one of Empire magazine’s “The 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History” (1995) and Empire (UK) magazine's “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” (1997). In 1999, the Northern Irish actor was named an Officer of the Order of British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in her New Year's Honors List.
On a more personal note, the 6'4" tall attractive actor was linked to several actresses: Helen Mirren (b. July 26, 1945; 1981-1985; met while filming Excalibur), Julia Roberts (b. October 28, 1967; 1988-1990; met while making Satisfaction), Brooke Shields (b. May 31, 1965) and singers Barbra Streisand (singer; b. April 24, 1942) and Sinéad O'Connor (singer; b. December 8, 1966). He is currently the husband of actress Natasha Richardson and has two sons.
Childhood and Family:
"I think I realized there were two communities in Northern Ireland when I was about nine or 10, not because there was any trouble but because in certain years my parents would keep us indoors on the 12th of July. I couldn't figure that out, because all my mates were out dancing in the streets and I wanted to go out and join them. So it was then that I sensed a 'them and us' attitude." Liam Neeson
In Ballymena, Northern Ireland, U.K, William John Neeson was born on June 7, 1952, to parents Barney Neeson (custodian; deceased; worked in a boys' primary school) and Kitty Neeson (cook; worked in a girls' grammar school). Along with his three sisters, Liam Neeson was raised Roman Catholic. As a teenager, 6'4" tall Neeson was a youth boxing champion. He attended St. Mary's Teaching School (dropped out) and Queen's University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
While performing on Broadway in the play “Anna Christie,” Neeson met actress Natasha Richardson (born on May 11, 1963). The couple later exchanged wedding vows on July 3, 1994, and has two sons: Daniel Jack Neeson (born on August 28, 1996) and Michael Richard Antonio Neeson (born on June 22, 1995). Liam Neeson is the son-in-law of actress Vanessa Redgrave and Tony Richardson, and brother-in-law of Joely Richardson.
"Any successful actor in films will tell you that it's very, very hard to come by good material. Everybody gets pigeonholed. Laurence Olivier was pigeonholed. Marlon Brando was pigeonholed. But there are times when a script arrives and I say, ‘Okay, I can see myself playing this.’“ Liam Neeson
Originally interested in boxing, 9-year-old Liam Neeson joined a boxing team run by a priest. Seven years later, following a blackout after a bout, he gave up boxing and became a forklift driver. Neeson also wanted to be a teacher and an architect, but finally decided to take on an acting career. He signed up with the Lyric Players' Theatre in Belfast and made his professional stage debut in "The Risen People." Neeson joined the Lyric Players' Theatre repertory company for two years (1976-1978) and later moved to Dublin, where he united with the Abbey Theatre. In the next year, he played Jesus Christ in an educational film based on John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" for evangelical Bible students in Ireland. He also had bit parts in the big screen’s Christiana (1979) and Nailed (1981).
While playing Lenny in the Abbey Theatre production of "Of Mice and Men," director John Boorman spotted Neeson and the filmmaker later cast the actor in Excalibur, a retelling of the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In the film, adopted from Sir Thomas Malory's "Le Morte D'arthur," Neeson played Sir Gawain, sharing the screen with the film’s stars Nicol Williamson, Nigel Terry and Helen Mirren. Afterward, he costarred as Blackie O'Neill in the syndicated miniseries "A Woman of Substance" (1983, starring Deborah Kerr, based on Barbara Taylor Bradford's novel) and later reprised his role in Hold the Dream (1986). Other television works include Merlin & the Sword, the US TV debut on the CBS miniseries "Ellis Island" and a guest appearance on the third season opener of "Miami Vice." He also appeared in the wide screen’s Krull (1983), The Bounty (1984) and The Innocent (1985).
Neeson moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and was featured as a deaf-mute, vagrant Vietnam vet falsely accused of murder, opposite Dennis Quaid and Cher, in Peter Yates' chilling courtroom thriller Suspect. In the subsequent year, Neeson played film director Peter Swan in Buddy Van Horn's The Dead Pool (alongside Clint Eastwood) and starred opposite Diane Keaton in Leonard Nimoy's adaptation of Sue Miller's novel, The Good Mother.
The early 1990s watched Neeson portray the titular, tortured antihero of Darkman (1990), in Sam Raimi's action thriller film with the same name and star as disgraced-cop-turned-private-detective in writer-director Simon Moore's Under Suspicion (1991, with Laura San Giacomo). He subsequently costarred with Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith in David Seltzer's World War II romance film, inspired by Susan Isaacs' novel, Shining Through and with Mia Farrow, Judy Davis and Sydney Pollack in actor-writer-director Woody Allen's drama comedy Husbands and Wives (both in 1992). Filmmaker John Madden then cast him to play the title role in his big screen version of Edith Wharton's 1911 novel Ethan Frome (1993, with Joan Allen and Patricia Arquette). On stage, Neeson made his Broadway debut in a Tony-nominated performance in "Anna Christie" opposite Natasha Richardson.
"Before Schindler's List, I wouldn't have believed movies had a lot of power for social change. But having seen what happened with Schindler's List, and touring the world with it, it really made me realize the power of images." Liam Neeson
Following the Tony nomination, Neeson nabbed a Best Actor Academy Award nomination, thanks to the portrayal of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s epic World War II drama, for the true-story based Schindler's List (1993, alongside Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes). More roles arrived and Neeson was seen as local doctor Jerome 'Jerry' Lovell in Michael Apted's adaptation of Mark Handley's play “Idioglossia,” Nell (1994, also with Jodie Foster and Natasha Richardson) and as the Scottish hero Robert Roy MacGregor in Michael Caton-Jones' rousing film version of Sir Walter Scott's sweeping romantic adventure, the biopic Rob Roy (1995, costarring Jessica Lange). Neeson also starred with Meryl Streep in Barbet Schroeder's drama, based on the 1992 novel by Rosellen Brown, Before and After (1996).
In 1996, Neeson played the crucial title role of the 'Lion of Ireland,' who led the IRA against British rule and founded the Irish Free State (Eire) in 1921, in writer-director Neil Jordan's controversial biopic, Michael Collins. Neeson's performance received good reviews and won a Venice Film Festival and an Evening Standard British Film Award. The rest of the 1990s saw Neeson star as Jean Valjean, a Frenchman imprisoned for stealing bread who must flee a police officer, in Bille August's adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic tale of injustice, Les Misérables (alongside Geoffrey Rush), featured as Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn in the first of three prequels to George Lucas' celebrated Star Wars films, Episode I - The Phantom Menace and play a professor who conducts psychological experiments in Jan De Bont's remake of Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting. Neeson also returned to Broadway, playing Oscar Wilde in David Hare's drama "The Judas Kiss."
Neeson narrated the 2001 documentaries Journey Into Amazing Caves and The Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure. After being nominated for a Tony award for Best Leading Actor in a play for his role opposite Laura Linney in "The Crucible," Neeson teamed with Harrison Ford in Kathryn Bigelow's submarine thriller K19: The Widowmaker and appeared in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York (with Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis). He also played a recently widowed writer in producer-writer-director Richard Curtis' ensemble comedy Love Actually (2003, with Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson) and portrayed the title role of Alfred Kinsey, a pioneer of human sexuality research who published the 1948's "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male," in writer-director Bill Condon's biographical drama Kinsey (2004).
Recently, in 2005, Neeson could be seen playing a great knight, Godfrey of Ibelin, in Ridley Scott's epic adventure Kingdom of Heaven (with Orlando Bloom and Eva Green), Henri Ducard in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (starring Christian Bale) and Father Bernard in Neil Jordan's adaptation of Pat McCabe's novel, Breakfast on Pluto (alongside Cillian Murphy). Neeson will provide his voice to the upcoming Andrew Adamson's family fantasy adventure, adopted from C.S. Lewis' novel, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Neeson is currently completing his next films: Allegra Huston's war film The White Rose (alongside Albert Finney) and David Von Ancken's feature directing debut Seraphim Falls (with Richard Gere and Pierce Brosnan), a Western drama about a colonel's quest to settle a grudge at the end of the Civil War. Neeson will also play Abraham Lincoln in an Untitled Steven Spielberg/Abraham Lincoln Project.
"It's such a tough call, trying to be a role model and having story lines revolve around that in a large way. It makes it hard for me as a human. We try to make sure it's not explicit." Liam Neeson
- Palm Springs International Film Festival: Desert Palm Achievement Award for Best Actor, 2004
- Taormina International Film Festival: Diamond Award, 2000
- Evening Standard British Film: Best Actor, Michael Collins, 1997
- Venice Film Festival: Volpi Cup - Best Actor, Michael Collins, 1996
- Cognac Festival du Film Policier: Best Actor, Under Suspicion, 1992