LIAM NEESON PROVES HE IS STILL THE KING OF ACTION IN HIS LATEST BLOCKBUSTER
At the age of 62 and after almost four decades acting, Liam Neeson has achieved something that Hollywood A-list studs half his age have been unable to do.
The veteran actor from Northern Ireland, at a time when most men would be in retirement or contemplating it, has become one of the film industry’s most bankable action stars.
Hollywood studios discovered they can spend a moderate $US25 million to make a Neeson film, put his wrinkled face on the movie poster and then watch fans fill cinemas to cheer on his tough, underdog characters as they hunt down the bad guys.
“It’s good. It’s lovely,” the 193cm tall Neeson, dressed in a black leather jacket and his hands resting on a table next to a large coffee cup, smiles when asked about his success.
“It’s nice to get a script that says ‘offer’, rather than, ‘Look at this and let me know what you think’.”
Neeson’s new thriller is A Walk Among the Tombstones, based on the Lawrence Block novel.
Neeson plays Matt Scudder, an alcoholic New York Police Department officer who, after accidentally killing a sevenyear-old girl during a robbery shootout, quits the force, cleans himself up and earns a living as an unlicensed private investigator.
When a drug dealer client’s wife is abducted and murdered and the kidnappers keep the $US400,000 ransom, Neeson is taken on a perilous journey as he attempts to track down the sadistic killers.
“Creatively, Liam is that character,” the film’s director, Scott Frank, says.
“You look at his face, there’s a lot of life you can see on that face. It’s soulful, there’s a lot of sadness there, a lot of emotion, he’s not afraid to be afraid and he doesn’t have to be macho.”
Neeson, of course, has a vast resume that includes the Steven Spielberg, seven-time Oscar winner Schindler’s List, the biopics Michael Collins and Kinsey, as well as blockbusters Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins and The Chronicles of Narnia.
The film that vaulted him to the new position of bankable action star was the 2009 action-thriller Taken, where he played a retired CIA agent travelling across Europe to save his kidnapped daughter.
Taken cost just $US25 million to make, but earned $US226 million.
It was topped by the 2012 sequel Taken 2, which took in a remarkable $US376 million.
Not surprisingly, in January Taken 3 will appear in cinemas.
Other recent actions films in the genre starring Neeson, Non-Stop and Unknown, have also performed above expectations.
While happy with his success, the low-key Neeson finds it hard to explain.
“I think you can explain it better than I can,” he laughs.
Pushed a little, he points to the TV marketing campaign for Taken.
The studio behind the film, Twentieth Century Fox, came up with an adrenalin-pumping trailer showing his character, Bryan Mills, fielding a frantic phone call from his daughter before she is kidnapped.
“I thought it was a good, little, tight European thriller that was going to straight to video,’’ Neeson says.
“But Fox took it and did an amazing PR job with it and it became a hit, and I guess Hollywood started seeing me in a different light and started sending me these types of scripts.” A Walk Among the Tombstones opens today.
Liam Neeson as Matt Scudder in a scene from A Walk Among the Tombstones.