Liam Neeson was aware that he came across as scary, but he believed the speech in the iconic Taken phone call sequence was corny.
Liam Neeson has been working steadily for nearly 40 years, but his career was completely relaunched in 2008 with the release of the action film Taken. While Taken spawned a trilogy, created many memes, and earned Neeson a new fanbase, Neeson wasn’t sure if the film’s most famous line would stick.
Speaking with Vanity Fair, Liam Neeson said he didn’t expect Taken to be such a success. Nor did he anticipate its most famous scene–in which he delivers the now-iconic line (abridged here), “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want…but I will find you, and I will kill you”–would be received as well as it was. “I certainly did sound scary, but I thought it was corny. It was a cornball. I really did feel that…It’s nice to be proven wrong.”
Liam Neeson added, “I was very surprised by Taken…I thought it was going to be a straight-to-video film. It was such a simple story.” And yet Taken not only has two sequels (Taken 2 and Taken 3–titles not quite as clever as some of the trilogy’s finest moments), but also inspired a television series of the same name, with Clive Standen starring in the origin story. Neeson also ended up stepping into his unlikely role as veteran action star, with many others following suit. So, yeah, you could say one “cornball” line triggered its own subgenre of action movies.
Liam Neeson has previously spoken about Taken, figuring it wouldn’t be a hit but that it ultimately proved a positive experience for him. “I remember thinking, ‘It’s going to go straight to video, it doesn’t matter…’ But it’s three months in Paris. How bad can that be? Working with these stunt guys every evening, I was in heaven. It was just a joy.” A quarter of the year in France and helping mold the model for over-the-hill action stars? Not bad for somebody probably best known for playing Oskar Schindler and Alfred Kinsey…
Liam Neeson also said that, despite some hesitations, he did actively pursue Taken. “I had read this Taken script and I approached [co-writer/producer Luc Besson] there and said, ‘Look, I’m sure I’m nowhere near your list of actors for this, but I used to be a boxer, I love doing fight scenes, I’ve done quite a few sorcery movies with swords and shit. Please think of me for this.’ Push came to shove and he offered it to me.”
What did you think of Liam Neeson in the Taken franchise? Do you think he stands as one of the great veteran action stars? Let us know!