The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - PETER MITCHELL

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.

Pic­ture: AP

Liam Nee­son as Matt Scud­der in a scene from A Walk Among the Tomb­stones.

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