Somebody call Key & Peele to break the news as gently as possible—their boy “Liam Neesons” has announced an official end to his late-career action movie period. Speaking to a crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Irish-born actor said he would hang up his action star boots thanks to his advancing age, saying that audiences simply wouldn’t be able to accept the roles as realistic. In fact, he called the entire late-career action arc “all a pure accident,” likely brought on by the unexpected success of 2008’s Taken.
“I’m like: Guys, I’m sixty-fucking five,” Neeson reportedly said. “Audiences are eventually going to go: ‘Come on.’”
It’s safe to say that Neeson has had an unusual, unique career arc. Despite occasionally playing action roles in his youth, such as in Sam Raimi’s ever-underrated 1990 superhero movie Darkman, he rose to prominence in Hollywood via prestige dramas that relied on his acting chops, expressive face and Irish brogue. In 1993 he played his signature role as Oskar Schindler in the award-showered Schindler’s List, receiving a nomination for Best Actor at the Academy Awards (he lost to Tom Hanks for Philadelphia). Regardless, it was the kind of role that makes an entire career: Presumably a career of similar prestige dramas.
However, things began to turn in a different direction in 2005, when Neeson played antagonist Ra’s al Ghul in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, which presumably led to Hollywood evaluating the then 53-year-old actor in a different light. Taken then came along in 2008, completing that rarest of Hollywood transformations: A 56-year-old dramatic actor suddenly becoming one of the biggest action stars in the world.
Kudos to Neeson, who milked the resulting fame for everything it was worth, appearing in self-parodies of Taken and as many other high-profile action movies as he could. These included the likes of The Grey, The A-Team and Non-Stop, along with the ubiquitous Taken sequels. Now, the actor wants to spend his remaining years focusing on dramatic roles, although he does still have two more already-filmed action movies in the pipeline: Hard Powder and The Commuter, which are both scheduled for 2018.
Outside the action arcana, Neeson will next be seen in Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, portraying Watergate leaker Mark Felt, better known by his alias “Deep Throat.” The film is out in theaters on Sept. 29.