In the last 15 years, Liam Neeson has done terrific work rebranding himself as one of cinema’s big action stars. Taken in 2008 launched a whole new era of his career as a consummate ass-kicker, and most definitely a person who knows his way around a firearm. The title of his latest film, The Marksman, alone places the latter half of that reputation in sharp relief, so when I recently had the chance to interview the star I took the opportunity to ask him if there’s a case of life imitating art involved. Is the actor in real life a good shot?
It may surprise you to learn that the answer is a firm “no.” Liam Neeson has obviously gone through weapons training for his various action movies, but evidently more than anything they have served to make him simply look like he knows what he’s doing instead of providing real-world skills. In actuality, as Neeson explained, while he can be confident with a gun while playing a character the reality of the situation is that every time he has had to actually use a weapon it has resulted in him having a negative emotional reaction.
No. No. I can act it; I think I can. But no, I'm not a good shot. I'm quite nervous around guns for obvious reasons. They do scare me, even though I keep a very small rifle here – I live in upstate New York, and I've had occasion over the years to shoot rabid raccoons. I had to do that.
Elaborating, Liam Neeson said that having the diseased animals on his property has been a practical danger, and he has been forced to respond to that danger (while there is a rabies vaccine, the disease is fatal if not treated prior to the onset of symptoms). Further discussing his limited firearm usage, Neeson continued,
It's always tugged at my heartstrings, even though they're disease-ridden, and it's probably one of the worst diseases a human can get from an animal, rabies, but it had to be done. I was always shaking afterwards before and afterwards. I've maybe done about five times, five, six times over the past 20 years, you know?
While we can be entertained watching Liam Neeson use a gun as a means towards him finding justice in his various films, the true reality of it all is a lot uglier – even when what’s being done has to be done.
In The Marksman, directed by Robert Lorenz, Liam Neeson plays a rancher living on the border to Mexico who finds his life as he knows it become completely undone after finding two illegal immigrants, a mother (Teresa Ruiz) and son (Jacob Perez), crossing into the United States while being pursued by agents of a drug cartel. Though he has personal connections to the United States Border Patrol via his daughter-in-law (Katheryn Winnick), he makes a commitment to help the young boy safely get to relatives in Chicago – though there is constant imminent danger as a result of the cartel drawing ever closer.