From humble Irish beginnings to full-fledged Hollywood stardom, Liam Neeson has had a whirlwind career.
Heck, he even reinvented the action hero.
Coming up in the ’80s, Neeson enjoyed moderate success on stage and screen. It was his star turn in a 1992 production of “Anna Christie,” however, that inadvertently catapulted him to fame. After seeing a performance of the Broadway play, Steven Spielberg cast Neeson in his now acclaimed “Schindler’s List” (1993) and made the Irishman a Hollywood leading man. This winter, Neeson is back as another noble ass-kicker in the action movie “Taken 3.”
From his early influences to his own fighting prowess, here are 30 things you probably don’t know about Liam Neeson.
1. Liam John Neeson was born June 7, 1952 in Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland.
2. His mother was a cook, while his father was a caretaker at a local primary school.
3. Neeson was one of four children, and the only boy.
4. He and his siblings were raised Roman Catholic. Believe it or not, he was even named after the local priest!
5. When he was only 9 years old, Neeson began taking boxing lessons. He eventually became a boxing champion in his province.
6. He had his last fight at 17.
7. Neeson took to the stage at an early age, too. At 11 years old, Neeson accepted his teacher’s offer to be the lead in a school play.
8. Turns out, he only said yes because he had a crush on one of his co-stars.
9. Neeson’s interest in acting was largely influenced by a local minister. “He had a magnificent presence and it was incredible to watch this six foot-plus man just bible-thumping away.”
10. Before deciding to pursue acting professionally, Neeson enrolled in Queen’s University Belfast and studied physics and computer science.
11. After a stint at University, he took up a variety of odd jobs. He even worked at Guinness Brewery for a time as a fork-lift operator.
12. In 1978, Neeson moved to Dublin to focus on acting professionally. The young actor found success on the stage and worked with the Project Arts Centre and the Abbey Theatre (the National Theatre of Ireland).
13. Around the same time, Neeson made his film debut in the religious film “Pilgrim’s Progress” (1978).
14. The Irish actor worked consistently throughout the 1980s, starring in both theater and screen productions. His most notable performances were in “The Bounty” (1984) opposite Mel Gibson and in “The Mission” (1986) opposite Robert De Niro.
15. He even guest-starred in a 1986 episode of the hit series “Miami Vice.”
16. In 1992, Neeson’s career changed forever. After Steven Spielberg saw the actor in “Anna Christie” on Broadway, he cast him in the Holocaust docudrama “Schindler’s List” (1993).
17. The film went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture and also earned Neeson a nomination for Best Actor.
18. To date, Neeson has been nominated for three Golden Globes and one Oscar. He has yet to take home a statue.
19. He was also earned a Tony award nomination for his starring role in “Anna Christie.”
20. One of the most in-demand actors of the ’90s, Neeson was cast in the highly-anticipated “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999).
21. Today, the actor has launched a new chapter in his career as an action star with hits such as “Taken” (2008) and “The Grey” (2011).
22. At one point, Neeson was set to play the title role in “Lincoln” and, therefore, reunite with Spielberg. With several production delays, the actor considered himself too old for the part and Daniel Day-Lewis took over.
23. Previously, Day-Lewis and Neeson starred (and fought) opposite one another in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” (2002).
24. As for his personal life, Neeson lived with actress Helen Mirren in the early 1980s.
25. They met while filming “Excalibur” (1981).
26. Neeson was later married to actress Natasha Richardson from 1994 to 2009.
27. The two met while co-starring in the 1993 Broadway production of “Anna Christie.”
28. The couple raised two boys together, Micheál (b. 1995) and Daniel (b. 1996).
29. Tragically, Richardson died following a skiing accident in 2009.
30. Bonus Fact: Neeson is the son-in-law of actress Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson.