If you enjoy action movies as we do, then this famous actor from Northern Ireland will surely be one of your favorite heroes.

Remarkably, this incredibly talented actor became world-famous following his portrayal of a Nazi who saved the lives of 1,200 Jews during World War II.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most fun and interesting facts about Liam Neeson, a man who played in numerous amazing movies.

1. Liam isn’t his real name but his nickname as a child

Liam Neeson was born on June 7, 1952, in the town of Ballymena, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. This wasn’t his real name at birth, though, because his passport identifies him as William John Neeson.

He was the only boy of 4 children and has 3 sisters named Elizabeth, Bernadette, and Rosaleen.

His family was Catholic and he was raised as such in a predominantly Protestant area. His family members were loyal churchgoers which resulted in the young boy being nicknamed “Liam,” a reference to the local priest.

Liam Neeson facts
Liam Neeson in 2012 / Elen Nivrae / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

2. He spent his youth acting and raking up boxing titles

His talent as an actor didn’t go unnoticed and he acted in school productions during his teenage years. This goal ould remain with him until he eventually became a successful actor during the 1980s.

Growing up as a Catholic in a Protestant town during the 1950s and 1960s made him kind of a tough guy. This translated into another talent of his, that of a boxer.

He started boxing at age 9 and eventually won a couple of titles as well, including the Irish Youth Championship. His final fight at the age of 17 knocked him out and the subsequent blackout that he experienced made him give up the sport indefinitely.

3. Oskar Shindler wasn’t the first Nazi that he portrayed

Even though he started acting in movies during the 1970s and landed his first major role with “Excalibur” in 1981, his real launch to stardom happened in the early 1990s.

He was offered the role of Oskar Shindler by Steven Spielberg in the epic World War II drama “Shindler’s List” (1993).

The main reason why he got the role was not only his impeccable audition for the role but also the fact that he already portrayed a high-ranking Nazi Official before.

A year earlier, he portrayed the role of “Franze-Otto Dietrich” in “Shining Through” (1992), starring alongside Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith.

He eventually earned an Oscar nomination for his role (he didn’t win but lost to Tom Hanks for his performance in “Philadelphia”) and helped the movie win an Oscar as well.

Oskar Shindler
The real Oskar Shindler / Wiki Commons

4. He holds several citizenships but identifies himself mostly as one of them

Liam Neeson holds Irish, British, and American citizenship. He was only naturalized as an American back in 2009.

The main reason to pursue this was the death of his wife, actress Natasha Richardson, and the heartfelt condolences he received in the country following this tragic event.

He mostly identifies himself as being Irish, though, and strongly feels the need to stay true to his roots, referring to himself as a “proud Irishman.”

5. He’s not the greatest Irish actor of all time according to a 2020 poll

Even though he has played roles in some of the greatest movies of all time, Liam Neeson faced some stiff competition when it comes to the best Irish actors of all time.

This means that it’s not a shame that he ended up as the 7th-best of the 50 actors in the list, which is not too shabby after all.

Colin Farrell, Peter O’Toole, and Daniel Day-Lewis (the only actor to have won 3 Oscars for Best Actor) were placed higher, to name just a few.

An interesting fact about this is that Neeson turned down the role in “Lincoln” (2012) because he felt too old for it. It eventually went to Daniel Day-Lewis who won his third Oscar for his performance.

Liam Neeson homage 2012
Homage to the actor in 2012 / Elen Nivrae / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

More interesting facts about Liam Neeson

6. Apart from displaying a talent for both acting and boxing early on, he also appeared to be a talented football player. While studying computer science at the Queen’s University in Belfast he was even spotted by a talent scout from Dublin.

This resulted in a trial by Dublin-based football club Bohemian FC. He has one match on his record after coming on as a substitute against Shamrock Rovers FC. Unfortunately (or should we say, fortunately) he wasn’t offered a contract and focused on his acting instead.

7. During his college years he studied physics and computer science at the Queen’s University in Belfast but never graduated.

He eventually ended up working casual jobs after moving back to his hometown of Ballymena, including as a forklift driver at the Guinness factory.

About 4 decades after he quit his studies, he ended up earning an honorary doctorate which was awarded to him by the Vice-Chancellor of New York, Professor Peter Gregson.

That’s quite some motivation for a man who earns up to $20 million per movie he makes, don’t you think?

Liam Neeson fun facts
Neeson with his son Michael / LG / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

8. He didn’t get the role of Oskar Shindler for nothing. He had to work quite hard during the auditions because he had some stiff competition.

Other interested candidates for the role were Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Warren Beatty. This means his role as a Nazi officer a year earlier probably gave him an edge over his competition.

9. He once auditioned for the rile as the giant in “The Princess Bride” (1987). Rob Reiner, the director of the movie, clearly didn’t like the fact that he was “only” 193 centimeters (6 feet 4 inches) tall.

He recalled this to be his most embarrassing moment while acting. Especially because André the Giant (1946-1993), not exactly a great actor but a real giant, got the role.

10. Some of his close friends include Ralph Fiennes, Henry Herman, and Ciarán Hinds. The latter is one of his closest friends as well.

That’s because Neeson and Irish actor Hinds met each other while their career was still in the very early stages, on the set of Excalibur in 1981. Both actors ended up establishing great acting careers the following 4 decades.

Liam Neeson in 2013
Neeson in 2013 / GabboT / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en
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