In 2008, if someone mentioned the name of actor Liam Neeson, chances are you immediately thought of him in one of two ways. It is likely that you automatically imagined the actor in his portrayals as historical figures – Oskar Schindler, Alfred Kinsey, Michael Collins – or of the gravitas he lent to franchises such as Star Wars and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. However, that all changed with the release of Taken six winters ago. With his gruff heroics and thick voice, he became one of Hollywood’s most bankable action heroes. Not bad for a man who was 56 years old at the time.
Since Taken, Neeson’s star power has soared. As the biggest action stars of the previous generation (the Fords, Stallones and Schwarzeneggers) struggle to excite and entice audiences for a bloody time at the cinema, Neeson rose into one of the most in-charge (and in demand) action stars of the current era. He has been no slouch getting work into his sixties, headlining two more Taken films, The A-Team, Unknown, The Grey, Non-Stop, A Walk Among the Tombstones and now Run All Night.
Neeson is hopefully not the only serious actor to find a niche in white-knuckle genre films. Many aging stars that have not found as many opportunities to strut their stuff in recent years have had the potential to mirror his late-career resurgence. Some stars like Mel Gibson (Edge of Darkness), Denzel Washington (The Equalizer) and now Sean Penn (The Gunman, opening Mar. 20) have tried their own hand at aping Neeson’s stoic, silent-but-deadly demeanor in high-octane thrillers, with mixed results.
Now, here is a list of seven fine actors who have what it takes to reinvent their careers as action heroes (and heroines), just as Neeson had. The people considered for this list are all actors that have not seen many screen roles in recent years and are primed for a comeback.
As always, feel free to add some of your own choices in the section below!