The Life of Liam Neeson

Occupation(s): Actor
Date of Birth: June 7, 1952
Place of Birth: Ballymena, Northern Ireland, U.K.
Education: University of Belfast (flunked out); St. Mary's Teaching School (flunked out)
Relations: Wife: Natasha Richardson (actress); kids: Michael, Daniel Jack
Sun Sign: Gemini
Moon Sign: Sagittarius

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Liam Neeson was born in a catholic family that  was a distinct minority in the predominately Protestant town of Ballymena.   Ironically,  Neeson's recollections of his upbringing in the bucolic burgh paint a picture of a hardworking community that witnessed little of the sectarian prejudice that plagues much of Northern Ireland. At the age of nine, Neeson began taking boxing lessons at the All Saints Youth Club; it wasn't long before he had sustained a broken nose in the ring, an injury that was handled without benefit of a doctor: his trainer reset the bone himself on the spot.   The mishap didn't deter the young boxer, though, and soon he had bested the lot of challengers All Saints could muster, at which point he began boxing on the amateur competitive level. 

He started attending the University of Belfast to study physics and computer science.   For a time, Neeson worked as a forklift driver at the Guinness brewer.   He went back to school at the urging of his parents who made him feel obliged to get a diploma.  Once again enrolled in school, this time to pursue a teaching degree.   Irish-born Neeson originally sought a career as a teacher, attending Queens College, Belfast and majoring in physics, math and drama.   In 1976, however, he set aside teaching and joined the prestigious Lyric Players Theatre making his professional acting debut in "The Risen People" (by Joseph Plunkett).

Neeson was appearing in a theatrical adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men when he was spotted by movie director MartinBoorman, who somehow saw in the actor's lumbering half-wit Lennie a medieval knight yearning to be set free.   Boorman cast Neeson as Sir Gawain, a secondary character in his eccentric and ambitious 1981 Arthurian feature Excalibur.   Decked out in chivalric garb, Neeson caught the eye of fellow castmate Helen Mirren, who portrayed King Arthur's evil half sister Morgana in the film; the romance the two actors commenced during production lasted until 1985.

 He and Julia Roberts were an item for a couple of years after they appeared opposite each other in the 1988 feature Satisfaction.

In 1992, Neeson made his Broadway debut in Anna Christie, a production that brought him to the attention of movie midas Steven Spielberg.   Having largely built his career by filming escapist thrill rides, the most successful director in Hollywood was preparing to shoot an adaptation of Thomas Keneally's nonfiction Holocaust novel Schindler's List at the time he went to see the play. Spielberg was so struck by Neeson's galvanizing stage presence that he offered him the role of Oskar Schindler, the corrupt industrialist who ended up saving the lives of more than a thousand Jews by subverting the Nazi slave-labor system.

On a more personal note, Neeson's Tony-nominated performance in Anna Christie had him treading the boards opposite flame-maned British actress Natasha (The Handmaid's Tale) Richardson.   True to form, Neeson struck up a romance with his leading lady, one that proved to be more durable than his previous dalliances.   The couple married in 1994, and their first child, Michael, was born a year later; son Daniel, a year after that.   In the 1994 Jodie Foster starrer Nell, Neeson and Richardson enjoyed their only on-screen pairing, playing rivals in the battle to decide the fate of Foster's wild-child who eventually surprise! fall in love.