LOS ANGELES—Liam Neeson is still making action movies at 69, but behind his fearsome figure lies a philosophical, playful and witty soul. He sat down with AARP The Magazine (ATM) to discuss his decision-making process when taking on roles, including his lead in the upcoming action thriller, Memory. The Irish American actor also discussed the powerful women who have influenced him; how his youth in a war-torn country still affects him; the joys of fatherhood; and his sense of wonder at his success in the action-hero genre and how the stunts and scripts haven’t seemed to catch up with him – not that he minds.
The following are excerpts from ATM’s April/May 2022 cover story featuring Liam Neeson. The issue is available in homes starting in April and online now at www.aarp.org/magazine/.
On stunts in his seventies:
“The stunts I leave to the stuntman. The fighting I do myself, and I keep reasonably fit for that…. They’re still sending me action scripts, you know? They wanted me to do one with Jackie Chan, which when I read it, I thought, well this would be tough for a 22-year-old, let alone a 69-year-old who’s going to be 70 this year. That’s the only one I turned down.”
On his upcoming film Memory:
“My elder sister, she has a very close pal who is suffering from dementia, and he cannot remember stuff from 5, 10, 15 minutes ago. So, in Memory I work in little bits of stammering or clumsiness that grabs people in the audience who know someone who’s suffering from it, from dementia or Alzheimer’s, but I wanted to keep it very, very subtle, because it could become jokey if I overdid the dementia.”
On receiving parenting wisdom from Meryl Streep:
“As a parent, you’re always thinking, They should’ve been back 10 minutes ago—what’s happened? My dear friend Meryl Streep came up to visit Natasha, my late wife, and myself when Micheál was 6 months old. He was lying on his cot, asleep, arms above his head, and she said, “That’s good. He’s not curled up. He’s comfortable and feels at home.” And I said, “Thank you, Meryl. That’s very sweet.” And then, as we were heading down the stairs, she added, “You both realize you’re hostages for the rest of your life, right?” [Laughs.] And she was absolutely correct.”
On watching his kids grow up:
“Sometimes you see in your kids a flash of their mother or a flash of your grandmom, and it might last only seconds, but you see the connection.”
On how his upbringing in Ireland may have shaped his roles:
“I’m talking 50 years ago. It’s kind of a post-traumatic stress disorder. I don’t know if it has scarred me, but it has definitely formed something of my character. Maybe you’re right—maybe even when I play these violent roles, I’m trying to bring some quality of redemption or justice.”
On balancing violence and love in boxing:
“There was respect, especially after a fight. You’d go and hug your opponent, and he’d hug you. Yes, you’re trying to punch each other’s head off with gloves, but there’s something else, too, dare I say it: the word “love,” ya know?”
On relaxing in his garden in upstate New York:
“I have a few acres upstate with a walled garden where we grow vegetables. I have three apple trees…Long ago we tried chickens, and they stopped laying. Someone suggested getting a cock so I got this little cock, and when I went in to check on the hens, this cock would fly in my face. Every f—— morning. And I thought, I’m going to kill this f—–. I told Natasha, I said, “Darlin’, we can’t do this. This cock is putting the fear of God in me.” We gave away the chickens.”
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation’s largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org, www.aarp.org/espanol or follow @AARP, @AARPenEspanol @AARPadvocates and @AliadosAdelante on social media.