Liam Neeson Shares How Classic Stories Like BEN-HUR and PILGRIM’S PROGRESS Influenced His Career

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Liam Neeson Shares How Classic Stories Like BEN-HUR and PILGRIM’S PROGRESS Influenced His Career

By Movieguide® Contributor

Liam Neeson is the latest actor to appear in the Deadline video series, The Film That Lit My Fuse. In the video, Neeson discussed the movies that led him to pursue acting as his career.

When asked what movies or TV shows made him “want to tell stories onscreen,” Neeson named THE LONE RANGER and BEN-HUR. 

“One that really struck me was Charlton Heston’s BEN-HUR,” the actor said. “It was just fantastic.”

Naming one of his favorite parts of the movie, Neeson said, “Seeing Christ. But you never saw his face. He gives Charlton Heston water when he’s being led in chains to the galleys…and the music all changed, and you knew, ‘My God, this is Christ.’”

The actor also described a scene where Jesus is carrying the cross to Golgotha and falls. When Ben-Hur tries to give him water, a Roman soldier kicks it away.

“That was, like, one of the seminal moments in cinema for me,” Neeson said. “Still is!”

Neeson also talked about his love of western movies and the comedians Laurel and Hardy and talked about some of his own early projects, including an early role as The Evangelist in a movie adaptation of PILGRIM’S PROGRESS. 

Faith has inspired many of Neeson’s projects:

Irish actor Liam Neeson may be known for his roles in movies such as SCHINDLER’S LIST, BATMAN BEGINS or TAKEN, but he’s also no stranger to tackling movies with heavy religious themes. His first credited movie role was a 1978 Irish version of PILGRIMS PROGRESS where he played the role of The Evangelist. A few years later, he was cast as a missionary in the Robert De Niro movie THE MISSION, and since has starred in nine Movieguide® Award winning/nominated movies, including LES MISERABLES, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and this year’s SILENCE.

“It’s partly coincidence” he told MOVIEGUIDE® in a recent interview, but quickly admitted “There’s always a little light that goes off in my head when I read a script that’s faith-based in some way. I was brought up quite a staunch Catholic. I was an altar boy for quite a few years as a kid. The Church has always appealed to me in some way, especially when I became an actor, and I’m certainly questing after God and the nature of God. So, I am drawn to it, I must admit.”

During the course of our interview, Neeson was very personable, often referring to me by name, and taking frequent pauses between sentences. Very proud of the projects he’s been a part of, Neeson agreed that spiritually uplifting movies with positive values are “super important.”

“Certainly with THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, I loved those tales,” Neeson said.

“I just thought they were magnificent,” he continued. I was very honored to get the chance to play Christ through a lion, as Aslan. [It’s] very, very special to me. LES MISERABLES too, I mean, he’s not a priest, but [the story is about] the nature of forgiveness. I think LES MISERABLES is up there with WAR AND PEACE as probably the greatest piece of literature that’s ever been written. It explains something about the potential of what humanity is capable of.”

Watch Neeson’s full interview here.