At 61, Liam Neeson says he is “a wee bit embarrassed” to be an action star.
But the reason why he keeps making action films like “Non-Stop” (in theaters Feb. 28) isn’t just for the money. It helps him avoid “wallowing in sadness” after the death of his wife.
“I’m not good without work,” the actor told Anderson Cooper in an interview (above) during Sunday’s edition of “60 Minutes”. “I just don’t – I just don’t wallow too much. You know? And I just didn’t want to – especially for my boys – seem to be wallowing in sadness or depression.”
Neeson has made over 20 films since his late wife, actress Natasha Richardson, passed away in 2009 after a skiing accident. “Taken,” which came out just two months before Richardson’s death, transformed Neeson from an Academy Award-nominated dramatic actor to one of the highest paid action stars in Hollywood, even though he thought the thriller would go straight to DVD.
“I was convinced it was straight to video, so it would go under the radar,” Neeson said. “It just seemed such a simple, little story. I thought there was nothing complex about it. There’s a guy determined to find his daughter. ‘Oh yeah, look, he finds her. And he kills all these guys.'”
“I thought the film was quite extraordinary, except for myself,” Neeson said of his first and only Oscar-nominated performance to date. “I didn’t own the part. I didn’t see enough of me in there.”
But Neeson is very “comfortable milking” his action-star status — something he knows won’t last because the roles are so physically demanding.
“I’m 61 years of age, man, going around fighting these guys. I feel a wee bit embarrassed,” Neeson said with a laugh.
Neeson also opened up about the details surrounding Richardson’s death for the first time since she suffered a fatal brain injury on a ski slope in Quebec. Specifically, the actor revealed what his last words were to the love of his life:
“I was told she was brain dead. And seeing this X-ray it was, like, ‘Wow.’ But obviously she was on life support and stuff. And I went in to her and told her I loved her,” Neeson explained. “I said, ‘Sweetie, you’re not coming back from this. You’ve banged your head. It’s – I don’t know if you can hear me, but that’s – this is what’s gone down. And we’re bringing you back to New York. All your family and friends will come.’ And that was more or less it.”
When Cooper asked Neeson what his wife would think of his career’s transformation, Neeson noted she would be “chuffed.”
“Chuffed is a good thing,” Neeson explained, meaning she would be very pleased.