At 69 years old, Liam Neeson is still one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars.
The actor appeared on TODAY's “Sunday Sitdown with Willie Geist” and spoke about still leading action movies ahead of his 70th birthday in June.
Neeson told the Sunday TODAY host that his fondness for action began when he was a child.
“I was an amateur boxer from the age of nine till I was 17,” Neeson explained. “I just love that physicality.”
He revealed that those skills actually helped him land the lead “Taken,” one of his most well-known roles. Neeson said he approached writer and producer Luc Besson, about portraying former CIA agent Bryan Mills at a movie festival in Shanghai. Although Neeson thought he “didn’t stand a chance,” of getting the part, he told Besson about his boxing expertise and mentioned that he had learned sword fighting for other movies.
He was eventually offered the role and spent three months in Paris training with stunt guys.
“I honestly thought it would go straight to video. It was a simple little story,” the actor said about the 2008 movie.
Instead, “Taken” went on to become a box office success that grossed over $200 million dollars. The film was turned into a franchise, with “Taken 2” and “Taken 3” being released a few years later. In 2017, NBC created a prequel series that starred Clive Standen.
Neeson said that "Taken" was the movie that turned him into a bonafide action star, and because of the role, he was offered multiple action scripts. Those offers haven't stopped even as he ages.
“I turn 70 this year, so I’m still getting away with it," he joked.
One iconic scene from the movie even turned into a cultural phenomenon: In the unforgettable moment, Neeson’s character threatens the kidnappers who took his daughter during an intimidating phone call.
“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills," Neeson's character says in part.
The speech has become a meme - and a family joke, according to Neeson.
“If I had $0.05 for every time I left (that) message for my son’s friends, I’d be quite wealthy,” Neeson joked.
He continued, “It was funny and I remember when we shot the scene, too, I thought, ‘This is hokey. Can we cut some of these skills out of the speech?’”
Willie replied, “The rest is history.”
Neeson will next be seen in the upcoming thriller “Blacklight,” which will be released on Feb. 11. Neeson will play an undercover agent for an unofficial government agency.
“My (character's) job is to go in and extract government agents who are infiltrating various organizations,” he explained.
Being careful to not spoil the film too much, Neeson also shared that his character will discover that someone is abusing their power and he begins to question his job.
Among the many thrillers he has starred in, Neeson said “Blacklight” stood out to him because it mixed action and adventure with a “political edge.”