Personal detailsName: Liam Neeson
Born: 7 June 1952 (Age: 61)
Where: Ballymena, Northern Ireland
Height: 6' 4"
Awards: Nominated for 1 Oscar, 1 BAFTA and 3 Golden Globes
All about this star
As film stars go, Liam Neeson certainly did it the hard way. In his late twenties he was still struggling in Irish regional theatre. By his mid-thirties, he'd risen only as far as supporting roles in a few of the Eighties' plethora of TV miniseries. Indeed, he was into his forties before his star really rose, when, as the fine character actor he had become, he brought grace, pain and a necessary touch of sleaze to the part of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award-winning Holocaust tale, Schindler's List. Suddenly, he was a bona fide star, not just an esteemed player but, with the likes of Rob Roy, Michael Collins and Gangs Of New York, a kind of thespian action hero, to boot. A starring role in The Phantom Menace, the long-long-awaited Star Wars prequel, placed him right at the top of the Hollywood tree. He was 47 years old - it had been a hell of a journey.
He was born William John Neeson on the 7th of June, 1952, in Ballymena, a small County Antrim market town some twenty-odd miles to the north-west of Belfast. It was a predominantly Protestant area - actually in the North Antrim constituency of firebrand preacher Ian Paisley - and the Neesons were Catholics, but Liam claims that, growing up, he saw little sectarian prejudice. Indeed, he's said he was shocked when, visiting his grandparents in the south of Ireland, the local kids ostracized and taunted him, sneering that he was from the north and therefore "followed the Queen".
Neeson's father, Barney, a quiet, self-effacing fellow, worked as a caretaker at the local Catholic girls' school where his mother, Kitty, a lover of music and the craic, also worked as a cook. Liam, named after a well-respected local priest, would live with them, as well as his older sisters Elizabeth, Bernadette and Rosaleen, in a tiny house in a Housing Trust project. Helen Mirren, when she visited the place as Neeson's girlfriend in the early Eighties, would wonder how they'd all fitted in.
As his own father had run a pub, Barney was well aware of the dangers of drink and kept a strictly temperate household. His only indulgence was a weekly poker game with the parish priests. It was a good atmosphere for young Liam, who was a keen reader and, by 1963 when he enrolled at St Patrick's Secondary School (later to become St Patrick's College) a very disciplined student. The boy was also, from an early age, something of a cineaste. Ballymena boasted only one cinema, but it did present double bills that changed every two days. Thus Liam could watch up to 14 films a week, and he often caught them all. This would change only when, seeking the pervy dollar, the cinema turned porno.