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Whatever happened to nice guy Liam Neeson? By Richard Crouse Metro Canada In Focus October 3, 0212

neeson-in-TAKEN_2In this weekend’s Taken 2, Liam Neeson tells his daughter that he will do, “what I do best,” which, apparently, is wallop bad guys, grimace and leave a trail of destruction a mile wide. He plays a retired CIA agent with a “particular set of skills” who will do anything to protect his family.

Neeson’s habit of paying the rent with chest-beaters like Battleship, Unknown and The A-Team led one macho movie fan to post on Facebook some conclusions.

“After watching the movie The Grey, I can only come to the (very logical) conclusion that Liam Neeson should be King of the Earth. Who’s better than Liam Neeson? Nobody. That’s who. Nobody.”

His burly build and steely glare have made the 60-year-old an action star.

“Believe it or not, I have even had Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis calling my agent saying, ‘How do I get these scripts?,’” he said.

But there was a time when a kinder, gentler Neeson ruled the screen.

His first film, 1977s Pilgrim’s Progress, was so low budget he played several characters. He’s credited as the Evangelist, a main character in John Bunyan’s Christian allegory, but can also be seen subbing in as the crucified Jesus Christ.

It was another supporting role in a movie called Shining Through that led to his breakthrough. In it he plays a Nazi party official opposite Michael Douglas. The performance so impressed Steven Spielberg he cast Neeson as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, which turned him into an Oscar-nominated star.

He parlayed that fame into starring roles in period pieces like Rob Roy, Michael Collins (at the age of 43 Neeson was 12 years older than the real-life Michael Collins when he died) and Les Misérables.  Then comedies Breakfast on Pluto and High Spirits also showcased his more amiable side.

High on the list of his mild-mannered roles are two films with Laura Linney. He’s worked with her so often on stage and in the movies they joke they feel like “an old married couple.” They’re part of the ensemble cast of Love Actually and play husband and wife in Kinsey, about America’s leading sexologist Alfred Kinsey.

Neeson, as we can see, can portray almost anything on screen, but even he was surprised by the success of Taken, his first action hit.

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