Liam Neeson done with action films, but we need older heroes

Commentary: The "Taken" star claims he's too old to be a hero, but move aside, muscleheads. Oleanna Tyrell and General Leia show "action" has many meanings.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
3 min read

Liam Neeson isn't too old to display a very particular set of skills.

Stephanie Branchu/20th Century Fox

Liam Neeson came to action stardom later in life, and now he says he's bailing on those roles before he loses credibility with audiences.

"They're still throwing serious money at me to do that stuff," he told Sky News. "I'm like: 'Guy's I'm sixty-f---ing-five.' Audiences are eventually going to go, 'Come on.'"

He may qualify for AARP, but Neeson showed he could take on creepy kidnappers and sex traffickers in "Taken," then fight Mother Nature herself, battling a pack of wolves in "The Grey."


Lady Oleanna Tyrell (Diana Rigg) encouraged Daenerys to "be a dragon," and she lived her own advice right till the end.


Hey, if Neeson wants to stop with the stunt-heavy roles and focus on the drama (he's playing Deep Throat in the upcoming Watergate movie), that's his choice. But here's one vote that we need more action heroes who've been kicked around the block a few dozen times, even if the "action" they take is more mental than physical.

Remember Neeson's famed speech in "Taken"? "If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money," he tells his daughter's kidnapper. "But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career." 

You believed that sentence coming from Neeson, then 56, and that's what made him such an intriguing action hero. An action hero imbued with strength and speed due to youth and hours in the weightroom is like a superhero -- fun to watch at times, but usually not a deep character. 

But those old enough to remember the days of vinyl records combine knowledge and experience with their physical traits -- and since this is Hollywood, they're usually granted more than their share of both. Unlike the unfortunates he ran into in "Taken," Neeson's experience wouldn't allow him to forget the difference in weight between a loaded and unloaded gun.

When a scene is written well, few things are better than seeing an older underestimated hero win out, and fantasy and sci-fi are the perfect medium for this.

Ben Kenobi being an old hermit allowed him to practically fade away into memory on Tatooine, but he still came through in the clutch. Yoda wasn't above snappily defending his age ("When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not!"), but could take down opponents centuries younger. Princess Leia was tough and scrappy from the start, but when she developed into General Leia, she only built on her leadership qualities.

Not every older hero throws himself or herself into the fight, of course. They've learned there are other pathways to victory. One of the most acclaimed characters in "Game of Thrones" (spoilers ahead) was Diana Rigg's Oleanna Tyrell, so sharp-tongued she was known as the Queen of Thorns. Her insults were savage, but she backed them up with solid, ingenious planning. Tyrion was generations younger, but despite Cersei believing otherwise, he wasn't the one who figured out a way to kill horrible Joffrey.

Like Neeson, Lady Tyrell had a very particular set of skills she had acquired over a very long career. She might not be able to gouge eyes with the thumb-power of the Mountain, but when she takes you down, you'll always know it was her. 

So if Neeson wants to pass on the punches for now, that's fine. He can just keep on acquiring more skills that'll be useful when he makes his inevitable comeback. Yoda's still got 835 years on him.

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