Liam Neeson Says Natasha Richardson Threatened to Dump Him Over Movie Role
She promised she wouldn't marry him if he took the job.
Actor Liam Neeson is known for a slew of timeless performances, playing characters including Jean Valjean, Aslan, and the titular roles in Schindler's List, Kinsey, and Michael Collins. However, there's one iconic role he found himself unable to consider—all due to love. Read on to learn about the character his late wife Natasha Richardson didn't want him to play and why she threatened to not marry him if he did.
Producers approached him about playing James Bond.
Neeson said that James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli approached him about playing the famous secret agent in 1995's GoldenEye. At the time, the actor was was fresh off of his Oscar nomination for Best Actor in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. He was also newly involved with fellow actor Richardson, who he had met while acting in the play Anna Christie on Broadway. Although Richardson was then married to producer Robert Fox, sparks flew between the two actors and they soon became a couple.
"I'd never had that kind of an explosive chemistry situation with an actor, or actress," Liam recalled on 60 Minutes in 2014. "We had just this wonderful kind of dance—free dance on stage every night. She and I were like [Fred] Astaire and [Ginger] Rogers."
He passed on 007 to save his relationship.
Neeson and Richardson were filming the Jodie Foster drama Nell together in North Carolina when the potential spy role came up. The Love Actually actor later said that his new relationship kept him from even taking a meeting about playing Bond.
"When I first started getting a couple of calls from Barbara Broccoli about would I be interested, and I said yeah, I would be interested," he said on the podcast Conan O'Brien Needs a Friend, as quoted by The Irish Sun. "And Natasha and I weren't married at the time and she said, 'If you are offered James Bond, we're not getting married.'"
In an interview with Rolling Stone earlier this year, he shared that the character's reputation for womanizing was part of what made Richardson put her foot down.
"She gave me a James Bond ultimatum," Neeson said. "And she meant it! Come on, there's all those gorgeous girls in various countries getting into bed and getting out of bed. I'm sure a lot of her decision-making was based on that!"
He gave her a hard time about it.
Although Neeson never formally pursued the role, he admitted to giving his future wife a hard time about the possibility. "I would tease her by going behind her back, making my fingers as though I'm holding a gun, and then [hums the James Bond theme]," he told Rolling Stone. "I loved doing that [expletive]!"
However, the actor also admitted he was not a serious contender for Bond, saying on Conan O'Brien's podcast, "I wasn't offered James Bond, I think I was on their radar for five minutes."
He did go on to win a more important role, however, becoming Richardson's husband in July of 1994. Their first son Micheál was born the next year, followed by their second son Daniel in 1996.
He and Richardson were married until her 2009 death.
Neeson and Richardson went on to enjoy almost 15 years of marriage together. Tragically, their happiness ended in 2009 when Richardson fell while skiing on Mont Tremblant in Quebec and suffered a traumatic brain injury. The actor passed away on March 18, 2009 at age 45.
Neeson became an action star after all.
Neeson told Rolling Stone that he kept his family afloat after Richardson's passing with the help of mother-in-law Vanessa Redgrave and sister-in-law Joely Richardson and by staying busy in film. "I remember calling my agent and I said, 'I don't care what it is. I'll take anything. I have to work,'" he said.
While the role of 007 ended up going to Pierce Brosnan (and later Daniel Craig), the work Neeson threw himself into would eventually give him a second chance at spy movies. In 2008, he originated the role of ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills in the Bourne-inspired action flick Taken, reprising the role in 2012 and 2014 sequels. Asked what Richardson would have thought about his late-career action movie star status, he told 60 Minutes, "She'd be tickled."
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